After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 20 young students and six adults on Friday, Dec. 14, reporters and community members did their best to make sense of a profound tragedy in order to prevent more in the future.

As the grief and shock continue to grip America, the stories of the Newport, Conn. victims and history of the 20-year-old gunman emerge. We still wonder why Adam Lanza did it. And what else can people do but pressure our president to address this tragedy with stricter gun control laws?

Just a few weeks before this tragedy was a single, “isolated,” incident — a suicide caught the attention of Asian Pacific American advocacy groups such as the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA).

David Phan, a kind, 14-year-old attending his Freshman year of high school in Taylorsville, Utah, was a different kind of story. The Vietnamese American teen who shot himself in front of schoolmates on Thursday, Nov. 29 was bullied frequently because of his race and driven to suicide.

“The tragic death of David is another bullying related incident that occurs far too often in our community,” said Tom Hayashi, OCA executive director in a recent statement. “While many of the details are still emerging from the investigation, bullying has become an epidemic inside and outside our schools that must be addressed with swift action. We must create a culture where harassment in all forms is unacceptable.”

A 2009 study from the U.S. Department of Education reports that APAs face the highest rate of classroom bullying — nearly 20 percent more than any other ethnic group, and are 10 percent more likely than other ethnicities to be bullied off of school grounds.

When faced with the daily challenges of bullying, young APAs in the Northwest need better ways of safely reporting bullying before incidents add up and result in irrevocable tragedy.

According to Doug Chin, board president of the OCA-Greater Seattle Chapter: “It’s going to be one of [OCA’s] priorities this coming year to study this issue and work with the school districts to see what can be done for Asian American students to deal with the bullying.” Chin wants to assess this issue in Renton, Bellevue and Seattle schools.

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