Zhihua Tian traveled thousands of miles from his native China earlier this year to profit from the treasures of the American education system.
Unfortunately, he landed at South Philadelphia High School, where the number of violent incidents often overshadow student achievements.
Tian, 19, of South Philly, and five other students who are recent immigrants are staying home today because they were among 26 Asian students who were attacked by a gang of other students throughout the day yesterday, said Xu Lin, of the Chinatown Development Corporation, who works with victimized students.
District officials said that 10 students have been suspended. No arrests were reported, but students who were outside the school yesterday said they had seen students being led out of the building in handcuffs.
Several incidents of violence against Asian immigrants were reported at the school last year.
Lin said there was a pervasive atmosphere of fear among Asian students.
"It's very, very scary," he said, noting that he repeatedly was beaten up when he attended South Philly High. "You go to school and you don't know when you'll be attacked."
The ordeal began Wednesday, Lin said, when a Vietnamese student was jumped by 14 students across the street from the school.
Yesterday, the attackers were roaming the halls "searching for victims class by class during school," he said.
About 12:30 p.m., Tian and two friends were heading to the cafeteria when someone ran up and hit him in the head from behind, Tian said through Lin, who translated.
"I tried to escape," Tian, a freshman, said. "I ran and they chased me and beat me on the nose."
His friend Shan Chen, 18, also a freshman, was pushed to the ground, punched and kicked, Chen said.
Seven of the victims, including Tian, were treated at Methodist Hospital for scrapes and bruises.
Violent incidents against Asian students often go unreported because the victims often have a language barrier or choose to suffer in silence rather than risk retaliation, said Tram Nguyen, a community organizer with Victim Services in South Philly.
But students at the school, which is 18 percent Asian and has been designated by the state as "persistently dangerous" the last three years, have tried to stop the violence against them.
"We didn't come from China to fight," said Wei Chen (no relation to Shan Chen), who founded the Chinese-American Student Association after last year's attacks.
The group has petitioned the district for more police patrols, security cameras and other measures, he said.
The school's principal, LaGreta Brown, declined to comment, but Michael Silverman, who oversees the city's 32 neighborhood schools, said that assaults in the school are down by 50 percent.
"We've been working with the Asian community since last year to make sure that South Philly High is an inviting place," he said.
But Xiu Ling Lu, whose ninth-grade son, Li Hua Shi, 15, escaped yesterday's pummeling, said she still worries that her son may become an indiscriminate target.
"They just beat every Chinese people. They don't care," she said. "This time he's lucky. What about next time?"
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund said today that it would file a complaint for civil rights violations with the federal justice department against the Philadelphia School District for failing to address violence against Asian immigrant students at South Philadelphia High School.
The complaint will charge that the school district violated the students' right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
The action was announced at an afternoon news conference by Cecilia Chen, a staff attorney with the defense fund.
Last week, as many as 30 Asian students were beaten by large groups of mainly African American students at the school. The students say they have long been targeted, often while school staff looked on.
Staff sometimes added taunts of their own, the students said.
Fifty Asian students have been boycotting South Philadelphia High since Monday.
Source 1 & Source 2
Twenty. Six. kids beaten in one fucking day. This is fucking vile and I want to whoop every single one of the attackers. I know, counterproductive... Also please keep the "so much for the City of Brotherly Love" kind of comments to a minimum, cause I know they'll inevitably show up.