Federal complaint expected on school violence
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said yesterday that it would file a federal civil rights complaint accusing the Philadelphia School District of failing to address violence against Asian immigrant students at South Philadelphia High School.
The complaint will claim that the district violated the students’ right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment, said Cecilia Chen, a staff attorney with the organization.
Chen said the complaint would be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
The news came on a day when the city schools chief and South Philadelphia High principal spoke out publicly for the first time since the Dec. 3 attacks on about 30 Asian students by large groups of students, most African American. They announced new security measures and diversity programs.
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman also said she would not agree to a demand from the Asian community that she meet with students and parents at a neutral location, and with activists present.
Instead, she said, the students should return to school, and she will meet with only them and their parents.
“I will be here to have private conversations with the students and their families,” Ackerman said. “I do not intend to have conversations with community leaders.”
She said she would meet with the leaders separately, but not just with leaders of Asian communities.
“We’re not going to continue to make this an Asian vs. African American thing,” said Ackerman. “This is not just about demands of one racial group. It is about the needs of everyone.”
Wei Chen, an 18-year-old senior who is president of the Chinese American Student Association, said students were not willing to meet with Ackerman at the high school because “we think it is not safe for us to go back.” The students have not yet decided whether to return to school on Monday.
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