Two Immigrant Students Attacked at Bok

Kristen A. Graham and Jeff Gammage, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 21, 2010

Two newly arrived Chinese immigrants recently were attacked at Bok High School in South Philadelphia, authorities said.

The incident occurred Friday morning, when the freshman boys were kicked and punched by a large group of students, according to Philadelphia School District and police accounts.

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One assailant has been arrested and charged with assault. The 14-year-old, whom school officials said had already been suspended this school year, is African American, as are 72 percent of Bok students. About 15 percent are Asian, 7 percent are Latino, and 5 percent are white.

Early district reports indicated that the incident occurred on a freshman hazing day and that race was not a motivating factor, but the investigation is ongoing, school officials said.

Helen Gym, a board member of Asian Americans United, took exception with that conclusion. “It’s our understanding that two recent immigrant Asian youths were beaten and sent to the hospital, and this didn’t happen to other kids at that school,” said Gym. “For the district to say that it wasn’t racial seems awfully premature. It feels an awful lot like they’re normalizing violence.”

Gym said her organization was “deeply troubled” by the district’s response.

“Frankly, we feel like we are starting to revisit the same troubling issues we encountered all last year,” she said.

Tensions have been running high in South Philadelphia since December, when seven Asian students required hospital treatment after being attacked by groups of mostly African American students at South Philadelphia High. That incident, the subject of a federal investigation, was racially motivated, authorities have said.

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The incident happened on the vocational school’s sixth floor during a class change. Two Asian students–one 14 and one 15–were walking to class when the 15-year-old was attacked by about 10 students, the victim told police.

The 14-year-old jumped in to help his friend, and was then attacked himself.

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“We’re treating this very seriously,” said the principal of the 1,200-student school.

But “I’m pleased to say that this was an isolated incident by some kids who didn’t take my advice that we wouldn’t tolerate anything,” Melton [principal Larry Melton] said late Monday. {snip}

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No other Freshman Day incidents were reported at Bok, Edison or Washington.

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