Tag Archives: South Philadelphia High School

South Philly High Cuts Jobs Focusing on Student Safety

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Violet SuttonWhen South Philadelphia High School erupted into racial violence on December 3, community liaison Violet Sutton-Lawson was one of the few school staff members who actually did something — risking serious injury — to protect Asian students who were being beaten by mobs. Last week, she was laid off: South Philadelphia High aide who protected students from attack is laid off.

“I put my life in danger,” an angry, disbelieving Sutton-Lawson said in an interview. “They just laid me right off.”

Sutton-Lawson, who worked with pregnant students and teenage mothers, was bumped from her job by seniority rules, among 61 support staffers who were laid off to save money and consolidate duties.

Eleven community-relations jobs were eliminated, said spokesperson Evelyn Sample-Oates. But some of those employees had seniority that allowed them to displace other workers. Sutton-Lawson’s job at South Philadelphia High will be filled by one of those longer-tenured workers.

“It’s unfortunate,” Sample-Oates said. “Ms. Sutton-Lawson is welcome to apply for another position with the district.”

Sutton-Lawson earned about $36,000 a year, barely a decimal point in the $3.2 billion school budget but crucial to a woman who doesn’t own a car and lives in a tough area on Wharton Street.

Sutton-Lawson’s position was one of 61 jobs slashed from the payroll. Ironically, the job cuts have largely targeted employees who focus on student safety — 11 community-relations workers were 17 nonteaching assistants and 33 climate managers, who help keep schools calm.

They never even acknowledged her actions to protect students on December 3, but the school district was fine with sending her a layoff notice, no problem. And yet former South Philadelphia High School principal LaGreta Brown remains on the district’s payroll. How does any of this make sense?

(Image Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer)

Aiyana Stanley-Jones, South Philadelphia High, and Solving the News Problem

by Latoya Peterson

Earlier this month, I was mulling over a piece in The Atlantic about the decline of the news, and Google’s attempts to assist the ailing industry. I found this tidbit fascinating:

“If you were starting from scratch, you could never possibly justify this business model,” Hal Varian [Google's chief economist ] said, in a variation on a familiar tech-world riff about the print-journalism business. “Grow trees—then grind them up, and truck big rolls of paper down from Canada? Then run them through enormously expensive machinery, hand-deliver them overnight to thousands of doorsteps, and leave more on newsstands, where the surplus is out of date immediately and must be thrown away? Who would say that made sense?” The old-tech wastefulness of the process is obvious, but Varian added a less familiar point. Burdened as they are with these “legacy” print costs, newspapers typically spend about 15 percent of their revenue on what, to the Internet world, are their only valuable assets: the people who report, analyze, and edit the news. Varian cited a study by the industry analyst Harold Vogel showing that the figure might reach 35 percent if you included all administrative, promotional, and other “brand”-related expenses. But most of the money a typical newspaper spends is for the old-tech physical work of hauling paper around. Buying raw newsprint and using it costs more than the typical newspaper’s entire editorial staff. (The pattern is different at the two elite national papers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. They each spend more on edit staff than on newsprint, which is part of the reason their brands are among the most likely to survive the current hard times.)

Krishna Bharat (Distinguished Researcher at Google) puts an even finer point on the problems with the existing news model. Bharat runs Google News, the aggregator that sifts through “25,000 sources in some 25 languages” daily. And considering he has watched the type of news trends that receive coverage, his next comments are old news to many of us dissatisfied with how our communities are portrayed in the mainstream media, but hopefully illuminating to those in the industry:

In this role, he sees more of the world’s news coverage daily than practically anyone else on Earth. I asked him what he had learned about the news business.

He hesitated for a minute, as if wanting to be very careful about making a potentially offensive point. Then he said that what astonished him was the predictable and pack-like response of most of the world’s news outlets to most stories. Or, more positively, how much opportunity he saw for anyone who was willing to try a different approach.

The Google News front page is a kind of air-traffic-control center for the movement of stories across the world’s media, in real time. “Usually, you see essentially the same approach taken by a thousand publications at the same time,” he told me. “Once something has been observed, nearly everyone says approximately the same thing.” He didn’t mean that the publications were linking to one another or syndicating their stories. Rather, their conventions and instincts made them all emphasize the same things. This could be reassuring, in indicating some consensus on what the “important” stories were. But Bharat said it also indicated a faddishness of coverage—when Michael Jackson dies, other things cease to matter—and a redundancy that journalism could no longer afford. “It makes you wonder, is there a better way?” he asked. “Why is it that a thousand people come up with approximately the same reading of matters? Why couldn’t there be five readings? And meanwhile use that energy to observe something else, equally important, that is currently being neglected.” He said this was not a purely theoretical question. “I believe the news industry is finding that it will not be able to sustain producing highly similar articles.”

I’ve been thinking about this in light of the Stanley-Jones tragedy, and in light of South Philadelphia High School. Continue reading

More Violence At South Philadelphia High

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Here’s a front page Philadelphia Inquirer story on South Philadelphia High School ninth grader Lindi Liu, who was assaulted in a bathroom last month. He was exiting a bathroom stall when another student kicked the door inward, bashing him in the head. A month later, he still has nosebleeds and blurred vision: Pain for Asian youth didn’t end with school assault.

As Liu picked himself up off the floor, he could hear the boy laughing.

The incident lasted only seconds, but for Liu, a 16-year-old immigrant from China, the consequences have been profound.

His vision frequently turns blurry, to where he can’t count fingers held in front of his face. He forgets conversations that occurred moments earlier, and sometimes struggles to identify everyday objects, like the chicken on his dinner plate. He gets sudden nose bleeds.

Liu was examined at Chinatown Medical Services on March 25, where the doctor wrote he had blurred vision and should be seen at a hospital. The next day, Liu underwent a CT scan of the head. A week later, a sudden loss of vision sent him to the emergency room for a second CT scan. More tests are pending.

Liu worries that his condition is permanent – and that he could be hurt even worse at school.

“I have this great fear that someone will attack me again,” he said.

The school district insists that Liu was injured “carelessly but unintentionally.” According to a school inquiry, the boy was kicking the doors of the stalls in turn, and didn’t realize Liu was there. However, a witness account contradicts that:

Dong Chen, 19, said the assailant kicked only one of five doors, the one with a broken lock, behind which stood Liu. Chen said when the door hit Liu’s head, “we could hear it, it was so loud. Pow!” Continue reading

Racially Divisive Press Mars Discussion of South Philadelphia High School

by Latoya Peterson

south philadelphia high

I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the matter of South Philadelphia High School. And it did.

Reader Carleandria points us to an article in The American (the American Enterprise Institute’s Journal) which wastes no time with the headline: “Are Some Races More Equal Than Others?

Readers, if my eyes rolled any harder, they would be stuck permanently at the top of my brow.

Abigail Thernstrom and Tim Fay feel like they understand the real reason why South Philadelphia High School isn’t getting any play from the press:

Will the Obama administration act aggressively to ensure Asian rights to a public education free of intimidation and actual violence—surely a basic civil right? Or will such action be taken only when blacks are the victims rather than the perpetrators? If the administration acts in the interest of the Asians, black students will be singled out as racially hostile troublemakers—a conclusion that neither the Department of Education nor the DOJ will welcome, if Duncan’s announcement means what it says. [...] Continue reading

Broken System, Part II: “Diversity Training”

by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils


In the first part of my “Broken System” series, I addressed the need for a landmark Supreme Court decision to be able to adequately affect the inequalities inherent in our public school system. In response, the inevitable debate began: what would actually fix these problems? A lot of great ideas have been suggested. However, at this point, many of the big changes proposed would be hard to push through, even with government backing, due to the mind-set of our general society. This post offers a possible solution to significantly alter our culture’s relationship to race, which could lead to positive change within our education system.

As a teacher and youth worker, I’ve been through my fair share of “diversity trainings.” And let’s just skip to the point and say that most of them are a big waste of time. They’re either too simple and obvious for people with any sort of awareness (or personal experience), or they’re too superficial to get anybody who really needs it to take it to heart. A couple hours of “diversity training” is never going to help a youth worker relate to kids of other races or backgrounds and/or get over their own sub-conscious (or conscious) biases.

The main problem, of course, is that these “trainings” come too late. Way too late. We wait until these folks are grown adults, with decades of experiences and ways of thinking behind them, and then we pretend that we can change their minds with some magical training. It doesn’t work like that. And we know that.

So how are we supposed to change race relations in our schools (and country)? How are we supposed to address volatile situations like the one in South Philadelphia High?

Well – what if we actually got over ourselves enough to talk to youth about it all? What if we directly addressed these issues? What if we taught our kids that talking about race isn’t a bad thing, that it can actually be helpful and positive? What then? Continue reading

How Do We Solve a Problem Like South Philadelphia High?

by Latoya Peterson

When you see a headline like “30 Asian Students Attacked,” one would think there would be massive rage.  An outcry about violence in schools.  A discussion of why our kids aren’t safe.  But in the wake of the attacks and continuing coverage by outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Asian-American blogosphere, the silence surrounding this issue confirms exactly who is considered media worthy in our society and who is not.  The kids being attacked at South Philly High School are part of our community – but where is the concern?  Where is the outcry from mainstream media? Where is the national conversation on…well, I’d take anything at this point.  Race, violence in schools, unsympathetic administrators, class, inter-community tensions, the right to an education in a safe environment – there are thousands of issues to be explored here, and we haven’t heard a peep from most mainstream media outlets.

I’ve been following the news with quite a bit of interest.  This kind of violence doesn’t pop up out of no where - it has to be nurtured.

Chaofei Zheng hiked up his shirt to reveal an angry bruise about four inches long on his right side. He pointed to a matching yellow and purple mark above his left eyebrow.

“I’m scared to go to school,” Zheng, 19, a freshman at South Philadelphia High, said through a translator today.

Zheng is one of several – community organizers say 30 or more – students who were attacked at the school on Thursday, targeted, they say, because they’re Asian.

Racial violence at the school is not new, but students and activists say this week’s attacks are emblematic of a problem that’s not going away.

“There’s a corrosive culture that’s hurting all the kids at the school,” said Helen Gym, a board member of Asian Americans United, who said the district must apologize and “admit that there’s a serious problem at South Philly High School.”

District officials acknowledge the school has problems and racial tensions but say that before the incident, violence was down by 55 percent this school year. Inroads have been made, they say.

Looking at some of the source articles, a clear narrative starts to emerge.  And while it is difficult to opine on a situation that is still unfolding, there are some dominant ideas emerging that need to be scrutinized before any progress can occur. Continue reading