Southeast Asian Youths at Risk, Study Concludes

John Geluardi, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Cal.), March 14, 2006

A newly released study on youth crime in Richmond shatters the so-called “model minority myth,” by showing high crime rates among Southeast Asians.

At a press conference Friday, a diverse coalition of community leaders including Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Mayor Irma Anderson said the study’s findings revealed that Vietnamese and Laotian families in Richmond are isolated by language barriers and little understanding of social systems.

As a result, the families struggle economically and their children are performing poorly in school. They are also more likely to get involved in crime. Vietnamese and Laotian youth are arrested on a per capita basis more than any other ethnic group besides blacks, according to the study.

“Before now, Southeast Asians have always been compared to Chinese and Japanese, who are usually associated with over-achievement,” said Sang Saephan, 21, a member of Southeast Asian Leaders. “This study gives a better idea of how each subgroup is doing.”

While Southeast Asian youth represent a small part of Richmond’s population, there are about 500 Southeast Asian juveniles in Richmond, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

The study points to a disturbing trend that was previously unknown, presenters said. In the West Contra Costa Unified School District, about 48 percent of ninth-grade Vietnamese students scored at or above the national average, while 43 percent were well below the average. Many Laotian students, 69 percent, failed to achieve average scores.

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