Mayor Nutter today praised the Philadelphia School District and schools Chief Arlene Ackerman for their handling of racial violence at South Philadelphia High School.

"Superintendent Ackerman and the School Reform Commission and the entire school district I think took these matters very seriously, and quite honestly, jumped on them in the most immediate fashion," Nutter said at a news conference today.

On Dec. 3, about 30 Asian immigrant students were attacked by large groups of mostly African American students. The Asian students say there's been a history of violence at the school and broken promises from the district.

Although Nutter was unequivocal in his support, some in the community have criticized the district for its response to the latest incident.

Eight days passed before Ackerman went to South Philadelphia High to talk to students and staff. The superintendent has also taken heat for her refusal to meet with students boycotting the district.

The students want to meet away from the school, with parents, community organizers and translators present. Ackerman has objected to the activists and meeting location.

Ackerman and South Philadelphia principal LaGreta Brown have outlined a long list of fixes they will make at the school, including more police officers, more security cameras, more translators, diversity training for students, and a school-wide think tank to tackle racial tension.

Nutter said he was cheered by the progress.

"But in the long run, it's the people, - not systems, not programs, not cameras, not. . . security officers or police officers - it's the people of this city, it's the students of the city, who have to make a conscious decision that we can live in peace and harmony," the mayor said.

Nutter said he was glad some students returned to school yesterday. In all, about half of the original group of 50 boycotters have gone back to school.

More will wait until a meeting with Ackerman, organizers said.

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or kgraham@phillynews.com.