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LA Officials Fear Coronavirus-Related Hate Crimes

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Los Angeles County and community leaders called on the public to refrain from racially scapegoating their Asian American neighbors as the coronavirus spreads globally.

The virus known as COVID-19 has infected around 60,000 in China, but Los Angeles County has only confirmed one case.

Nonetheless, county officials such as Supervisor Hilda Solis and Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, said they've heard of reported hostilities toward members of the county's Asian American community, which numbers more than 1.4 million.

"We will not tolerate any type of racial profiling in our schools," Duardo said. "We will address it immediately."

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Duardo did not directly address a petition to cancel classes in the city of Alhambra because of the global outbreak. But she said "the message is very clear that schools should not even consider being closed because of this virus."

She said students should practice good hand hygiene and stay home if they develop a fever.

Duardo also asked parents, teachers and administrators to be calm and informed about the disease.

"We need to make sure we are being very intentional and ensuring that we are not giving messages or talking in front of young children and exposing hate," Duardo said.

This month, a boy of Asian descent was bullied about coronavirus at a San Fernando Valley school and beaten to the degree that he needed an MRI, said Robin Toma, the executive director of the county's Human Relations Commission which works on hate crime prevention.

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"We know that during the assault he said, 'I'm not Chinese,'" Toma said.

A detective with the Los Angeles Police Department was assigned several days ago to investigate the school assault as a possible hate crime, said Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher.

Toma urged people who have been targeted for their race to report the incident to 2-1-1, where they can also ask for referrals to mental health agencies.

Toma also asked witnesses to report any incidents of coronavirus-related incidents.

"For example, if a person is told by a business that they're not welcome because they will scare away customers, that is an actual civil rights violation under a state law," Toma said.

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