Americas Stop Asian Hate

Asian students still face racism, harassment in US schools

By Gilda Balan, Correspondent

What happened to the two sons of Hai Au Huynh may well represent the current state of racism and harassment faced by Asian American students.

For months, the 45-year-old Texas mother had been trying to reach a resolution with teachers and administrators of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (CFISD) board. This, after her two sons experienced anti-Asian racial harassment at their elementary school.

According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity written by Amritpal Kaur Sandhu-Longoria, the mother had filed multiple emails, meetings and officially filed grievances, but school officials refused to condemn the racist acts nor assure protection for her boys.

On November 13, last year, Huynh took to the podium of the CFISD board meeting to share her story.

She said her children “have been the target of several racist attacks in CFISD this past year. My 8- and 11-year-old should not have to repeatedly tell other children why it is wrong to use racial slurs.”

In an incident caught on video, her sons had been called “ching-chong-wing-wong” throughout their bus ride home.

In another incident, during their last day of school, the students signed each other’s shirts. Huynh’s older son looked at the back of his shirt and saw that someone had drawn a swastika, the ultimate symbol of racial hate.

Huynh asked the school to grant a “stay away” order against the student who drew the swastika, but her request was denied by the CFISD board.

She said the lack of accountability of the board was appalling. “My children do not feel CFISD will keep them safe,” she said.

The school refused to comment on the matter.

The anti-Asian racial harassment faced by the Huynh boys is not isolated.

The Center for Public Integrity report said “generations of Asian American and Pacific Islander children (which includes Filipinos and FilAms) educated in US public schools point to a pattern of racial harassment and bullying that is not fully reflected in data due to lack of reporting.”

Worst of all, “families who do report hate incidents are often not taken seriously enough for school officials to put a stop to it,” said writer Sandhu-Longoria’s report.

Huynh said she was familiar with the pattern of hate, having experienced the same when she was a child growing up in South Philadelphia.

A report by researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, found that anti-Asian hate crimes in the 16 largest US cities rose 145% in 2020. This was a year when overall hate crimes declined in the same cities.

Huynh said her boys asked why no one was acting to stop the hate crimes. She reassured them that by speaking up, they would inspire others to do the same.

The FBI says many hate crimes go unreported, and it may be more prevalent in AAPI communities than other racial or ethnic groups. This is based on data from the US Commission on Civil Rights.

Unfortunately, a report last year by the commission noted that few police officers are fluent in Asian languages. This barrier may be one more reason victims are discouraged from reporting.

One survey taken in 2021 found that the majority of Asian students who have been bullied do not tell adults of their experience. “The reverse was true of bullied students from other racial groups,” wrote Sandhu-Longoria.

As a result of this, “there is going to be underreporting no matter what,” said Bethany Li, legal director of the Asian American Legal Defense Education Fund.

This sad state prompted the non-profit Stop AAPI Hate to start compiling voluntarily submitted data in hopes that community-based organizations, government agencies, and researchers can help drive policy solutions that keep AAPI communities safe.

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