More than 100 people rallied yesterday in support of Asian students beaten at South Philadelphia High School earlier this month.
Students and community members of all races gathered at the Arch Street United Methodist Church to tell the roughly 30 Asian students attacked during and after school that they applauded their bravery.
The event was held by Asian Americans United to "show the students they are not alone and that there is a broad community of people who care about them and all of the students at the school," according to organizers.
The students shared their experiences at South Philadelphia High School and in turn won support from the adults and other students in the crowd.
Some supporters read poems. Others told the students they showed more bravery last week than did the adults charged with keeping them safe.
Fred Pinguel, an organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union, was in the crowd.
"It would be easy for them to pursue a narrow strategy, but they're not. They really have an eye toward making change for all the district," said Pinguel, who attended with several Student Union members from around the city. The Asian students, he said, are "very brave."
At the event, the Asian students said that fault lies not with the students who attacked them but with the adults who let the attacks happen.
"Most of the students at South Philadelphia High School - Asian, African American, Latino, and white - are just like us," the Asian students said in a statement. "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."
On Dec. 3, large groups of mostly African American students attacked 30 Asian students inside the school and outside. Seven students required hospital treatment. Ten students - six African American and four Asian - have been suspended with the intent to expel.
A school district investigation may produce more suspensions, and a police investigation is expected to result in charges, officials said. District officials have also hired an outside investigator to probe the matter.
The school, which was named "persistently dangerous" as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind law, has seen overall violence and assaults up this year over last year's numbers.
The Philadelphia School District has been criticized for its response, which some have characterized as slow and defensive, but officials on Friday announced a host of fixes - more police officers, more cameras, diversity training, a federal program to deal with racial tensions, an outside diversity committee, and an in-school think tank.
The Asian students say they are not satisfied with the district's response, though they have not said exactly what they want. The students last week boycotted the school, gathering daily to study and look for answers.
It wasn't clear last night whether they would return to South Philadelphia today.
Representatives from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations have said they set up a meeting for today involving Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, the students, and some observers. It was unclear last night whether the Asian students or anyone representing them would attend.