Stepped-up security may have thwarted another attack on Asian students at South Philadelphia High School yesterday.
According to one teacher, 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 for fear of reprisal.
School administrators and police officers heard the rumors, too, and monitored the situation carefully, they said.
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.
During dismissal at South Philadelphia, five city police cars and several school police vehicles surrounded the school. There were also officers on foot and bicycle.
Standing outside the 900-student school at Broad Street and Snyder Avenue, Michael Silverman, the regional superintendent who oversees it, said the administration was aware of the rumors but had heard no specific information that the talk was based in fact.
"This is exactly what we set up - safe corridors," Silverman said. "What you see today is what we set up a week ago, because we want the kids to be safe."
Asian activists also gathered outside the school. Silverman said the school had contacted them to warn them there might be trouble.
South Philadelphia senior Steven Nesmish, 18, said yesterday was a normal day at the school, with no obvious sign of impending trouble. He blamed a small number of students for hurting the school's reputation.
The students were "fighting over nothing," he said. "It was like a handful of students."
The teacher said school officials had been very responsive to potential trouble.
"They took a proactive stance," the teacher said. Some students were even dismissed from class early and given security escorts to the cafeteria at lunchtime, the teacher said.
That response was in contrast to what the Asian students said happened on Dec. 3, when security officers allegedly stood by as they were attacked.
Roughly 50 Asian students who boycotted the school last week after that attack returned to class on Wednesday.
The teacher said South Philadelphia High had 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 hospital treatment.
In response, the district installed dozens more security cameras and added 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 pending.
The Rev. Terence D. Griffin, pastor of First African Baptist Church, said African American ministers met with Asian leaders for three hours Thursday night. The group brainstormed ways that children of all races can get to know one another better.
"We looked at ways of getting the kids together," Griffin said, adding that possibilities included having American-born students help immigrants with their English, and having the two groups eat lunch together.
His church, at 16th and Christian Streets in South Philadelphia, hosted a meeting last night on school violence attended by some 70 people including top school district officials. The gathering, organized by community activists, aired ways to be more inclusive of new community members and how parents and community members can get more involved with the schools.
It was a "listening session for us," said Fernando Gallard, district spokesman.