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Student may be suspended for alleged racist remarks
Houston Chronicle ^ | Jan. 18, 2003, 1:35AM | By ZANTO PEABODY

Posted on 01/18/2003 11:27:00 AM PST by Lockbox

Student may be suspended for alleged racist remarks

Bellaire High valedictorian posted comments on Internet


Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

The valedictorian of Bellaire High School faces a possible suspension from school for allegedly racist comments he made on an Internet profile.

Harry Huang, a reputed math whiz and National Merit finalist at the highly competitive school of 3,200 students, made offensive remarks toward Hispanics on a Web site he set up at home, a district official said. A student made copies of Huang's message and distributed them on campus.

Huang was sent home early Friday and is to return to school Tuesday with his parents. Schools in the Houston Independent School District are off Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday. School officials will determine the discipline then, said Heather Browne, HISD spokeswoman.

"The principal felt he needed to take some action to show that racism and derogatory remarks will not be tolerated," she said.

"The fact that it was discussed and brought to administrators and teachers at school obviously meant it created a climate in which students were affected. They were commenting on it and reacting to it."

Huang, 18, apologized during a phone interview Friday afternoon. "Certainly I made a mistake and regret what I said," he said.

"At this time, I don't know whether to say anything else."

Huang would not detail what he said, but HISD said the comments involved his complaints against a Hispanic mechanic.

"He was apparently dissatisfied with work done on his car prior to the Christmas holiday," Browne said. "The derogatory remarks were posted on his own personal site."

In an e-mail Huang sent late Friday, he said three Mexicans who claimed to be auto mechanics hammered the hood of his car earlier this month and demanded repair fees.

"I was afraid for my safety, so I gave them whatever money I had and they let me go," he wrote.

"Afterwards, I became angry and wrote those statements on my computer. I did not publish those statements on a Web site; I never intended for it to reach an audience. I wrote it only to release my anger, to vent over my own stupidity and misfortune during the events of that afternoon. The second I realized the ugliness of my words, I retracted and regretted the statements.

"Even now, my group of friends include many Mexicans, and I respect them and love them deeply. What I wrote was neither true nor fair, and I sincerely apologize."

Bellaire High principal Tim Salem spoke against racism in a speech over the public address system to the student body Friday afternoon. Bellaire, a highly respected college-prep campus, last year graduated more National Achievement Scholars than any other school in the country.

Salem, reached at the school Friday, directed questions to Browne.

Huang's remarks reportedly were made on an AOL Instant Messenger profile. The messenger is a computer program that allows users to hold conversations in real time over the Internet.

Browne said that, based on the district's code of student conduct, Huang could face two days of suspension.

"It's the principal's discretion," Brown said. "Given the fact the disruption of the school day as it was -- student discussion -- he would lean more to a day or two of suspension."

Huang, who hopes to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, so masterfully maneuvered his way to the top of his class that classmates have dubbed his technique the "Harry Huang Maneuver."

By combining a regimen of honors courses and timing them so that the more heavily weighted grades would boost his grade point average before the school calculated rankings, Huang catapulted himself to the top of his class.

Whether Huang's status as valedictorian will change has not been determined, Browne said.

"He is slated at this time to be valedictorian. Whether that changes or doesn't change is yet to be determined at this point," Browne said. "The school -- not HISD -- will make a decision next month about whether his standing will change or not."

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
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1 posted on 01/18/2003 11:27:00 AM PST by Lockbox
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To: All
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2 posted on 01/18/2003 11:28:46 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: Lockbox
'Congress shall make no law...'

This kid ought to end up owning the school district. A more eqregious violation of personal civil rights is tough to imagine.

3 posted on 01/18/2003 11:31:17 AM PST by SAJ
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To: Lockbox
If he did not make those statements while at school I fail to see why the school should get involved. Or does not freedom of speech mean anything in this world of political correctiness. What next - will the schools be following us around, recording what we say and to whom, recording it for future reference in case we should run for public office? Stupid question - of course it donesn't.
4 posted on 01/18/2003 11:35:57 AM PST by drjoe
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To: Lockbox
Whether Huang's status as valedictorian will change has not been determined, Browne said

Let me get this straight : There's even a question that he could lose this status, based not on performance and GPA, but on remarks he posted to a nonschool web page while not in class?

Oh, and I'm sure any antiwhite remarks made by black or Hispanic students would have been treated just as severely. < /sarcasm. >

5 posted on 01/18/2003 11:39:04 AM PST by kaylar
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To: Lockbox
If these comments were made and uploaded on the student’s own time and his own computer, the school has no right to censor him.

This principal has made a mistake.

I dislike the constant barrage of racist-sexist remarks against white males made by the news media, 'rat politicians, and even school curriculum promoted by teachers and faculty. I'd like to suspend them all.
6 posted on 01/18/2003 11:39:50 AM PST by Once-Ler (I vote Dubya)
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To: Lockbox
"Harry Huang"?? You gotta be kidding. I'm startin to feel a leg bein pulled here.
7 posted on 01/18/2003 11:46:53 AM PST by Treebeard (Looks like hard times done flushed the chumps...)
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To: Lockbox
"The principal felt he needed to take some action to show that racism and derogatory remarks will not be tolerated," she said.

The learned principal went on to say "what does this kid think that there is some kind of Constitutional thingy that guarantees free speech?"

8 posted on 01/18/2003 11:48:35 AM PST by TightSqueeze
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To: Lockbox
Harry Huang, a reputed math whiz and National Merit finalist

This is actually the problem - he's an achiever. And as we all know, achievement is to be punished severely.
Achievement of this type is especially egregious when he makes others look at their own non-achievement, and doesn't apologize for his own achievement.

9 posted on 01/18/2003 11:55:35 AM PST by MrB
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To: Once-Ler
This behavior gets reprimanded, yet according to O'Reilly, sex on a school bus by students is not punished.
10 posted on 01/18/2003 11:58:47 AM PST by Tripleplay
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To: okchemyst
No one's leg is being pulled. Here's more on Harry Huang:

High schools work to ease stress in GPA competition
Special to the Chronicle
Just when Bellaire High lead counselor Shirley Raby thought she had seen it all, along comes Harry Huang.

For years, Raby has watched students outsmart the grade point average system so they could soar to the top of the class. And along the way, she's seen some students overcome with stress.

So while Huang's strategy to win the title of valedictorian was successful -- Huang's GPA is 4.93181; salutatorian Pridi Dangayach's GPA is 4.92156 -- school officials are rethinking how their super grads are recognized.

"There's some question as to what we're going to do because it's gotten out of control," Raby said. "But we're only at the talking stage."

Superachievers have long crammed their schedules with advanced courses -- after all, an A in an advanced class contributes five points toward GPA, instead of four in regular classes.

As well, students have long scheduled those nagging but required four-point classes, like health and physical education, for the last semester of high school -- after the final class rank is calculated. Besides, everybody knows that four-point courses are a ball and chain on a GPA, so it's better to squeeze them out of the equation when possible.

An old practice: Debate is a must -- it satisfies the speech requirement and offers five credits.

A new one: The state's basic diploma plan is found attractive by many a straight-A student because it does not require a fine-art, four-point class.

But even when he was back in middle school, Huang already knew all of those tricks.

And he knew this: If he was going to become the valedictorian of Bellaire High School's Class of 2003, Huang needed to be clever.

He needed to start high school with a mathematical advantage. What he really needed was to dump a four-point class.

And to the amazement of school counselors -- who are now using Huang's strategies as fodder to tweak the system -- he found, or rather invented, a new and perfectly legal way to do it.

Enter "The Harry Huang Maneuver," so dubbed by some of his peers.

Huang is fluent in Chinese. So, to avoid taking Chinese I -- a four-point class -- he simply tested out of the course and enrolled in honors Chinese.

"You have to play the system," Huang said. "You have to carefully pick classes and be careful about when you take them. In the end, it's really who plays the system best."

His grade-point gymnastics worked.

In the increasingly competitive world of class rank -- it is common for grade-point averages to be calculated four or five digits to the right of the decimal -- a fraction can be everything.

And the implications can be big.

Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent, for example, are guaranteed admission to any public university in the state.

Class rank can also affect what kind of SAT score a student needs in order to gain admittance to college -- for instance, many universities require a higher SAT score for students who graduate in the second quarter than for applicants who finish in the first quarter.

GPA also determines whether a student graduates as valedictorian or salutatorian.

And while many valedictorians pursue Ivy League or private schools, many other Texas grads who are No. 1 take advantage of the state's plan that offers free tuition for the first year of public college -- more than 900 valedictorians did so last year, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

In recent years, the trials of ranking at the top have become so tough -- officials attribute it to a "trickle-down effect" of the fiercely competitive world of college admissions -- that high school officials have been rethinking, or already have changed, how super grads are recognized.

That's because of stress, Raby says.

Kids, she says, are under "too much pressure" to perform, and the sacrifices they make are too big.

So HISD officials are taking a look at policy.

A few possibilities are being discussed.

"We are trying to put fairness into system," she said.

One idea is that there would be no distinction given to the top two graduates -- students could graduate with various levels of honors.

Another notion, Raby said, is to do away with the five-point system, make all courses weighted at four points, and continue the tradition of naming a valedictorian and salutatorian by calculating the GPAs among the top students by their true semester averages rather than by a four-or-five-point system.

Another possibility is to host retreats to help superachievers cope.

"It would be a support system," she said. "So they could learn how to manage stress and balance the demands."

HISD is not alone in trying to ease the pressure among overly ambitious students.

Schools around the country have tweaked class-rank practices in various ways. Some schools have even landed in the courtroom.

Locally, many districts, including Aldine and Alief, still honor the top two spots.

Others, like Cypress-Fairbanks, have made changes.

Kelly Durham, public relations director for Cy-Fair, said the district did away with naming valedictorians and salutatorians in 1999 as a measure to ensure that all students are recognized.

"Many times," Durham said, "GPAs are so very, very close."

Now, top graduates in Cy-Fair high schools are distinguished by three tiers of honors, and students compete to read the commencement by auditioning before a panel of faculty.

Bellaire's top two graduates are the first to say the pressure is "overwhelming."

For salutatorian Dangayach, an award-winning poet whose lengthy résumé mentions years of Girl Scouts, violin concerts, science activities and writing for the student newspaper, the sacrifice has been mostly giving up leisure time.

Dangayach, who is fluent in three languages and studies four or five hours a night, didn't attend a single football game during her high school career.

"I haven't even seen Harry Potter," said Dangayach, who hopes to go to Rice. "Frankly, I'm up to my limit. I really need a break. ... I want to paint my bedroom and watch movies and go shopping with my mom."

Dangayach said Huang's strategy was a little unfair since he is fluent in Chinese but that she harbors no ill feelings.

"My dream was just to make it to the top 5 percent," she said.

Huang offers no apologies. He said he played the game fair and square.

But winning it, he said, came at great cost.

His sacrifices: Sleep, time with friends and family, video games, and extracurricular activities.

"I'm a member of several clubs in name only," said Huang, who is looking forward to catching up on sleep and playing basketball when the load lightens in the coming weeks. "But in the morning when it's time to go to a meeting, I can't get out of bed."

Huang, who hopes to go to MIT, said becoming valedictorian wasn't easy.

"I don't think I'd do it again," he said. "It wasn't worth it."

So why did he do it?

"I wanted to be the best," he said.

11 posted on 01/18/2003 12:00:43 PM PST by kaylar
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To: Lockbox
I wouldn't doubt he was bullied into giving up his money. But of course in today's world where you can't call an illegal alien an illegal alien I'm not surprised he got into trouble. Granted we don't know exactly what he said but still he was at home, that is to say NOT AT SCHOOL, so I don't see how it's any of the school district's damn business anyway.
12 posted on 01/18/2003 12:01:33 PM PST by Texas_Jarhead
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To: Lockbox
If this is allowed to stand, free speech is surely dead. I can't believe the school is so heavy handed.
13 posted on 01/18/2003 12:01:55 PM PST by lady lawyer
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To: kaylar
The kid is obviously smart. But I find

"You have to play the system..."

just a little manipulative and morally disturbing.

I say this guy goes on to become either a Nobel-prizewinner or a top-notch scam artist, a la the Clintons.
14 posted on 01/18/2003 12:08:52 PM PST by canuck_conservative
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To: Lockbox
1. He has freedom of speech
2. Made on his personal site
3. School has no juristiction over that.
15 posted on 01/18/2003 12:10:57 PM PST by yonif
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To: Tripleplay
"This behavior gets reprimanded, yet according to O'Reilly, sex on a school bus by students is not punished."

Excellent point.
16 posted on 01/18/2003 12:17:45 PM PST by Once-Ler (I vote Dubya)
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To: Lockbox
Sounds like a big fat lawsuit, except the kid apologized.

I hate to see students failing to claim their *own* constitutional rights because they're so afraid of the almighty college application.

17 posted on 01/18/2003 12:25:20 PM PST by valkyrieanne
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To: valkyrieanne
Sounds like a big fat lawsuit, except the kid apologized.

I'm no lawyer, but apologizing doesn't negate free speech rights IMO. He was under duress of suspension.

18 posted on 01/18/2003 12:34:18 PM PST by Principled
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To: Lockbox
There is no longer "free speech". It has gone the way of the Dodo and the Constitution.

"Free speech" my ass.


19 posted on 01/18/2003 12:35:31 PM PST by nothingnew
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To: drjoe
This should be reversed, become favorable for Huang. He is in his civil right to express whatever at home, and even on campus: it's called free speech. The real crime is to have public schools here in Houston, where the majority of the students are Hispanics, the teachers speak and teach in Spanish and the Anglo minority that only speak English (our national language), are out of luck. Now, that is a true violation and wrong doing.
20 posted on 01/18/2003 12:35:39 PM PST by Hila
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