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Violence Against Chinese-American High School Students
By World Journal
December 9, 2002

A Chinese-American student at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn became the latest victim of school violence last week following a recent rise of school violence against Chinese-American high school students. Many Chinese-American educators said most cases occurred in areas with large numbers of newly arrived immigrants. They suggest that students learn to adapt to American culture and improve their own command of English.

They also recommend that in the case of violence, the victim is not advised to hit back and should leave immediately and report the incident to the police or school officials.

Jing-li Huang, a senior counselor at Seward Park High School who has been in school counseling for 20 years, said there has been a sharp increase in school violence against high school students of Chinese descent in recent years, especially in areas with large numbers of new immigrants, such as Brooklyn. He said Lafayette High School is one of them.

"There is a large influx of new immigrants but the high schools in Chinatown can only accommodate a limited number of students," Huang said. "Some students choose to go to schools with few students of Chinese descent because it's closer to homes or the commute is easier, such as Brooklyn."

Huang said some ethnic groups in those areas are not familiar with Chinese culture and thus frictions might occur. Meanwhile, students from some ethnic groups might also inherit some bias against Chinese people from their upbringing, added Huang.

In addition, Huang said that new immigrant students should try to improve their English and learn about different cultures from different ethnic groups. He said, for example, many Chinese immigrants do not say, "Excuse me" when passing through other people or apologize when accidentally bumping into other people. Some students would stare at other students out of curiosity and were thought to provoke confrontation by others.

Shih-yun King, an assistant principal at Newtown High School, said, in most cases, victims get beaten up, blackmailed, mugged or have their clothes or book bags damaged by other students. Sometimes they get picked on because of their language problems or the way they dress.

Lin Yu-ting, a school psychologist at Liberty High School and Stuyvesant High School, said many recently-arrived Chinese students would form small groups or try to dress like African-American students, which also causes problems.

Lin suggests that students avoid confrontation but said that they should not keep silent in the event of violence. However, he added that students should not hit back, advising that they would face discipline as well.

There are 2,215 students in Lafayette High School. African-Americans make up the majority of the student body at 50.2 percent. Hispanics make up 19.6 percent, Chinese at 17.3 percent and white at 12.8 percent.

The media has exposed several cases of school violence at Lafayette High School in the past two years, including incidents where several Chinese and other Asian students were attacked by African-American students. An assistant principal is currently under investigation by the Department of Education for discriminating against Asian teachers and staff. The principal has also reportedly forced some Chinese students to apply for graduation as soon as they finished the required credits.

According to a survey by the Department of Education, ten percent of those interviewed said they had suffered verbal or non-verbal racial discrimination. Of those interviewed, 50 percent are white and 26.3 percent are Asian. However, only one-fourth of the victims report what happened to school officials, while the rest keep silent because they fear revenge from other students, teachers or school officials.

Translated from Chinese by Larry Tung

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