justice department reaches settlement with school district on civil rights violations at south philadelphia high school

Huge news out of Philadelphia... today, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it filed a settlement agreement in federal district court with the School District of Philadelphia in order to address the severe harassment and violence against Asian students at South Philadelphia High School: Philadelphia school district agrees to measures to quell anti-Asian violence.

Back in January, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed an administrative complaint with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, triggered by the events of December 3, charging the school district and SPHS with discrimination against Asian students on the basis of race and national origin.

In a complementary move, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ratified a conciliation agreement also signed by the School Reform Commission, who agreed to numerous reforms and reporting requirements to hold high school officials responsible for keeping students safe from racial and ethnic violence. Here an excerpt from AALDEF's press release:
The Justice Department's and PHRC's agreements mean that the School District will be monitored at both the federal and state levels for improving conditions at SPHS. AALDEF Staff Attorney Cecilia Chen said: "The School District of Philadelphia is finally being held accountable for years of indifference to the serious and ongoing harassment of Asian immigrant students. It is unconscionable that any child should have to endure the levels of harassment that Asian students at SPHS have experienced."

Under the terms of the two and one-half year agreements, the School District is responsible for making significant improvements at SPHS, long sought by AALDEF and local advocates. These include developing new anti-harassment policies; educating students and staff on multiculturalism and diversity; providing interpretation and translation to immigrant students and their families; and developing clear safety and emergency response plans.
This is a pretty big victory for the students, community leaders and supporters who have been fighting for over a year for a safer learning environment for Asian immigrant students at South Philadelphia High School. Their commitment has been relentless, and with the help of AALDEF, their fight went all the way to Department of Justice. More here: Justice reaches pact with Philadelphia schools in '09 attacks on Asian American students.

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