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Stepped-up security at S. Phila. High thwarts attacks

Stepped-up security thwarted rumors of another attack against Asian students at South Philadelphia High today.

According to one teacher at the school, several Asian students were warned that they would be jumped after school.

"They were told to watch out, that there's a threat against you after school," said the teacher, who asked not to be identified.

School administrators and police officers heard the rumors, too, and monitored the situation carefully.

The rumors did not appear to be related to problems in Center City, where youths from several high schools roamed the streets, perhaps in retaliation for earlier fights at the Gallery mall.

At dismissal at South Philadelphia, five city police cars plus several school police vehicles surrounded the perimeter of the school. There were also officers on foot and bicycle.

Standing outside the 900-student school at Broad and Snyder, Michael Silverman, the regional superintendent who oversees the school, said that the administration was aware of the rumors, but the police presence was normal.

"This is exactly what we set up - safe corridors," said Silverman. "What you see today is what we set up a week ago because we want the kids to be safe."

Asian activists were also at the school site, monitoring the situation.

The teacher said that school officials had been very responsive to potential trouble.

"They took a proactive stance," the teacher said. "There are all kinds of police outside now. They took every precaution."

Some students were even dismissed from class early and given security escorts to the cafeteria, the teacher said.

About 50 Asian students who boycotted the school after an attack earlier this month returned to class on Wednesday.

The teacher said South Philadelphia High has been "peaceful, although Asian kids are still telling me that people are cutting front of them in line at lunch and saying things to them like 'You [expletive] Asian!'"

On Dec. 3, 30 Asian students were attacked by large groups of mostly African American students. Seven students required hospitalization, and about 50 Asian students boycotted the school for seven days.

In response, the district put in place dozens more security cameras, more school and city police, diversity training for staff and students, and a federal program to mediate racially tense situations.

A federal civil rights claim is still pending.