British Columbia

School grieves over dead student

School officials at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary don't want to talk about racial tensions there, saying today is a day for grieving over the death of a student.

School officials at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary don't want to talk about racial tensions there, saying today is a day for grieving over the death of a student.

"Our focus today is helping our students and our staff deal with this tragedy," she said. "For many of them it will be a shock to learn that one of their classmates has died so brutally. It's really where we want to spend our attention today."

Jomar Lanot, 17, was walking with friends after a basketball game near Charles Tupper School in East Vancouver on Friday night when they were chased by a group of Indo-Canadian youths. He was beaten and died in hospital.

At a news conference, school principal Jennifer Palmer noted the incident happened outside school hours and that it was a community problem, not just a school one. She also described the victim as a good person.

One Filipino-Canadian student interviewed said he and his peers were more nervous after school.

"Like, we call for rides before we get out of school, cuz, we don't know what's going to happen," said Arman Galandez, who said Friday was the first time Lanot had tagged along to play basketball.

Tupper is a racially diverse school, with Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, Caucasians and Indo-Canadian students in the mix.

Chris Kelly, superintendent of schools, said in general, there are there are lots of programs to head tension off. Anecdotally, the number of racial dust-ups appears to be dropping, but when they do happen they are more violent.

Sgt. Gary Lester, Vancouver Police's school liason co-ordinator, concurred, saying there was a time when once a student hit the ground, the fight was over. "Now it's an invitation to jump on and get a free shot in," he said.

Police search for suspects

Vancouver police are looking for a red Jeep Cherokee and a grey Saturn in connection with Lanot's beating death on Friday night.

Const. Anne Drennan, who speaks for the Vancouver Police, said one of their suspects is a 17-year-old boy who was expelled from Charles Tupper and Gladstone high schools, and has a violent history toward other teens.

Meanwhile, the murder should be a wake-up call to educators about racial violence in schools, says a Filipino-Canadian group.

Ethel Farrales of the Filipino-Canadian youth alliance said the school board hasn't recognized racial violence in the past.

"They kept saying that there's no racism in the high schools, when we clearly understand that racism does exist."

Her sister May said they have been trying to alert schools to the problem of racial violence since 1999.

That's when a Filipino student was assaulted after-hours at Vancouver Technical High School.

Filipino students have the highest drop-out rate of any group in Vancouver, in part because of racial intimidation, she said.

"The youth are describing that they can't concentrate because they don't know what's going to happen when the bell rings."

Drennan said isn't aware of any racism problems at Charles Tupper.

"We spoke to the members of our youth squad as well to find out whether or not they were aware of any problems between ethnic groups of kids. They said no."

Both Lanot's friends and the other group, however, were shouting racial insults at one another in the confrontation that lead to Lanot's murder, she said.

Palmer did say it is an "unfortunate irony" that Friday was the last day of the full time police liason officer at Tupper. Kelly said he wants the position re-instated as soon as possible.