A second formal, independent investigation of racial violence at South Philadelphia High has been opened.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has voted unanimously to probe alleged violence against Asian students at the school, a state spokeswoman said today.

The vote was taken last night after a lengthy private meeting with school district officials, a public session where community organizers spoke, then an executive session to discuss whether an investigation should be started.

Commissioners reconvened the public session last night to open the probe, said Shannon Powers, the spokeswoman.

On Dec. 3, about 30 Asian students were beaten by large groups of mostly African American students. A seven-day school boycott followed, with students returning to South Philadelphia High only after a private meeting with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

Attorneys have said a federal civil rights claim will be filed. The commission yesterday also encouraged those who were discriminated against to file complaints with them.

The school district has launched its own independent investigation, bringing in a retired former federal judge to conduct the probe. Those results are due next month.

"There was a clearly a tremendous failure all across the system, and that's what we're trying to get at," commission chair Stephen A. Glassman said at the meeting.

Activists testified at the meeting that students still fear for their safety at the school, and said that officials' attitudes toward them have not improved.

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