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Asians Often Face Bigotry in Schools, Report Says

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WASHINGTON--Asian-Americans in public schools are often exposed to bigotry, while receiving little academic help, a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights asserts.

The 233-page report, released late last month, was based on an extensive review of current research as well as on interviews conducted across the country by employees of the bipartisan, independent agency.

The report concludes that "Asian-American immigrant children, particularly those who come from families at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale, face a multitude of learning and adjustment challenges that mainstream students do not confront.''

"In particular, the most recent wave of immigrant and refugee children from Asia appears to be encountering more educational difficulties than earlier waves,'' the study says.

Moreover, it says, several recent studies "offer a distressing portrait of the unfriendly, often hostile school environment in which many Asian-American students, especially immigrant children, find themselves'' when they enter public schools.

In the course of site visits and interviews, commission staff members found that Asian-American students are often targets of racial hostility, much of which is downplayed by educators.

When conflicts arise between Asian-American students and those of other backgrounds, the former often feel that administrators and teachers deal more harshly with them than with the others, the commission found.

Some students respond by taking their protection into their own hands and getting into fights or joining gangs, the commission found. Such actions, it says, often put the students on a path toward being suspended and eventually dropping out.

'Model Minority' Myth

In examining how Asian-Americans are doing academically, the study found that the widespread perception of them as a "model minority'' masks a host of serious problems, especially for particular groups.

For example, although Southeast Asian students often have higher grade-point averages than other students, they also tend to have lower standardized-test scores. Several Southeast Asian groups appear, along with Samoans, to have high dropout rates.

The study also found that:

  • Asian-American students with limited English proficiency are underserved by English-as-a-second-language and bilingual-education programs. The failure of many of these students to learn English haunts them on the political front, since their numbers usually are too small to trigger federal requirements that they be given election materials in their native language.
  • An "extremely small'' proportion of Asian-American language-minority students are taught by Asian-American teachers. Asian-Americans who wish to teach often cannot meet rigid state-certification requirements and are denied credit for teaching experience in their native lands.
  • Refugee children and parents often suffer from post-traumatic-stress syndrome. Parents often have low educational levels that prevent them from helping their children.
  • As Asian children are torn between the values of their home on one hand and the values of their peer group and school on the other, they often find themselves without meaningful parent support or authority at a time when they most need it.

The report calls on federal, state, and local officials to act to defuse ethnic tensions in schools, to ease the transition of immigrants into American society, and to provide a better education to LEP Asian students.

Copies of the report are available at no charge from the commission's Clearinghouse Division, Room 709, 1121 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20425.

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