‘Targeted because we are Asian immigrants’

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Asian students from South Philadelphia High School, along with adult allies from several organizations, came out en masse this afternoon to District headquarters and issued the following statement to the press at Wednesday’s School Reform Commission meeting, providing extensive detail about their concerns:

"South Philadelphia High School is not a safe place for us.

"We are targeted because we are Asian immigrants. Every day we face taunts and violence. It hurts when we are attacked by other students. It hurts more when school staff ignore, deny, or cover up the racial attacks against us.

"For the past three days we have chosen to boycott our school in order to get a real education about how to ensure our safety. This is what we have found.

"On Thursday, attacks against us happened throughout the day both inside and outside of school. Adults in the school are supposed to care for us and to make us safe, instead this is what happened. School staff:

  • Allowed large groups of 15-20 students to wander through the building for over four hours. These students were reported to be looking into classrooms for targets of their attacks.
  • Overrode one security guard’s efforts to keep a large group of students from the second floor, where they did not have classes, and purposefully allowed them to go running through the halls.
  • Ignored Asian students’ fears about going to the lunchroom following these clear signs of trouble in the building.
  • Forced Asian students to follow a security guard to the lunchroom where they were attacked and beaten by a crowd of students in front of several adult staff.
  • Failed to call the parents of injured students for several hours after the attacks.
  • Refused to allow some Asian students who were seeking shelter and safety in the school at the end of the school day to stay at the school, until community groups called 911 and arrived on the scene.
  • Forced Asian students who had been assaulted to leave the school building even though they were hurt and frightened.
  • Discounted Asian students’ fears of walking home and to their transit stops.
  • Directed Asian students into the streets where crowds of students had gathered and where immediately afterward they were assaulted.
  • Neglected to call the students and families who were victimized by the attacks to either check on their well-being or to get a full report of what happened to them.
  • Failed to conduct a full investigation of what happened.
  • Downplayed the seriousness of the attacks until they were reported in the media.
  • Disregarded students’ and families’ fears and recklessly called on students to return to school before even investigating what happened on Thursday.
  • Refused to accept responsibility for the mistakes of school staff and administration on that day and placed all the blame on the student attackers.

"Most of the students at South Philadelphia High School — Asian, African American, Latino, and white — are just like us. They are trying to get an education in a school where they do not feel safe or respected. We are calling on the adults in the school and in the School District to take responsibility for the unsafe environment of South Philadelphia High School that makes it hard for us to learn there."