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After Chinatown meeting, boycott suspended

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, South Philadelphia High School Principal LaGreta Brown, and other District officials went to Chinatown late Tuesday afternoon to meet privately with students from South Philadelphia – and the meeting ended with Asian students from the school announcing that they plan to suspend their boycott, which was in its second week.

The more than two-hour meeting took place at the Chinese Christian Church and included over 30 of the boycotting students as well as a dozen other students from the school, school staff, and several Asian community leaders from groups such as Asian Americans United and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

The city’s Human Relations Commission arranged the meeting. Superintendent Ackerman had earlier said she would meet with students only at the school.

Participants said that during the lengthy exchange, students had an opportunity to air some of their grievances. District officials fielded questions, acknowledged some mistakes in handling the December 3 attacks on Asian students at the school, and offered some apologies, while repeatedly urging the boycotting students to return to South Philadelphia High School, or to another school if they still do not feel safe at South Philly.

Asian students issued the following statement after the meeting:

"Through our trials and struggles, we pushed the school to hear us. We have made change by standing together. We are proud of what we have done. If something happens again after all this, we know that we have strong wills and we will stand together again.

"We have came back to stand with more students. We want to start a dialogue with other student organizations. We will continue to work with the community organizations. The struggle will go on until all the demands are met; we won’t give up. We ask everyone to continue to pay attention to what’s going on at SPHS. We hope that school can change their attitude for the benefits of all students. We thank our supporters. Without the support of everyone we could not go this far. We are excited for the future. We now believe in hope and change, like President Obama.

"We want a safe school for everyone; we want everyone to have a good education. This is not the end, but just the beginning of the fight for better futures and better educations for all races of students."

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