asian students praised in south philly high school settlement

Nice to hear some good news out of Philadelphia for a change... Here's a Philadlephia Inquirer article from a couple of days ago, giving credit to the Asian students at South Philadelphia High School for their role in the two landmark anti-Asian harassment settlements recently filed with the the state Human Relations Commission and the federal government: Asian students praised for role in 2 Philly school settlements.

At a recent meeting of the Human Relations Commission, commissioners, staff, community advocates, and city school officials praised the settlement, which stemmed from school violence on December 3, 2009, when thirty Asian students were targeted and attacked at South Philadelphia High.
It would be easy to read the federal settlement and conclude that it was 30 pages of legalese. In fact, line after line speaks directly to specific cases of anti-Asian harassment - none more loudly than that involving a Vietnamese immigrant student, Hao Luu.

His name is never mentioned, but provisions for translators and parental notifications help address what befell him in a case that began in accusation and ended with the district admitting its error.

"I think my situation might have had some effect, a little," Luu, now 18 and attending a different school, said during an interview.

Luu said he was glad the school had improved under a new principal, Otis Hackney, but said his harsh experience altered his life and disrupted his education.

The day before the violence erupted, Luu was followed after school by 10 to 15 students and beaten so badly that he vomited. The next morning, his grandmother Suong Nguyen went to the school and filed an incident report.

Neither she nor Luu was contacted by school administrators. Instead of being treated as a victim, Luu was accused as a perpetrator. During the next two months, he was ordered transferred from the school, despite having won his case at a disciplinary hearing, and accused of being a gang member, despite his family's denials.

At one point, officials accused Luu of taking part in a fight in Philadelphia in 2008, when he was living in Virginia. A notice of his suspension hearing went to his family in English, a language they struggle to understand.

District officials later acknowledged that Luu had no connection to street gangs, dropping the allegation they had used to ban him from the school.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, Luu despite ultimately winning the right to return to South Philadelphia High, Luu decided to transfer to another school. Hopefully, with new terms mandated by the settlement, harassment cases like Luu's will be handled completely differently. Time will tell. But huge props to the Asian students -- this is a movement that started with them.

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