Let’s Talk Human Relations

Story by: KRYSTAL FLOYD / Academy at Palumbo

Photo by: NAJA BUTLER / Paul Robeson High School 

Rue Landau is the first lesbian Executive Director of the Human Relations Commission. Landau is a very lively person and a supporter of LGBTQ rights.

Rue Landau, What is your job position exactly?

I’m the executive director of the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission and Fair Housing Commission.

How did you get fto this position? 

So I was a lawyer for Community Legal Services before I worked for the Human Relations Commission and then I was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008. It’s a great job, just a lot of work.

What did HRC do to resolve problems that occur in Philadelphia’s public schools?

The Philadelphia Commission decided to deal with the issues on city-wide divisions. Some groups focused mainly on South Philly High.

Since the issues of student bullying of immigrant Asian students in South Philly High in January of 2010, how have the victims been since the incidents?

Some of the students graduated, went to college, some even transferred to other schools. The students who stayed there said it was a much better place.

That’s really good news. Are there any other schools in the city with similar issues?

Yes, this is a system- wide problem that needs system-wide solutions. We’re creating a School Safety and Climate Summit. I haven’t heard of any schools recently where there’s bullying. The “It Gets Better” campaign has helped to promote change.

So there’s a lot of change happening in schools?

I feel like the work that I’m doing is increasing. The Philadelphia School District is rewriting the Student Code Of Conduct. We’ve come to find out that the zero-tolerance policy doesn’t work.

That’s good for the schools. Let’s now talk about the discrimination that is outside of schools. As many know, the popular steak place, Geno’s Steaks, now has a sign, by late owner Joey Vento that says, “This Is America. When ordering please speak English.” Has the commission done anything about that issue?

The commission filed a complaint against Geno’s Steaks and it’s not right that an establishment dissuades people from eating there. It is not what we want Philadelphia to be known for.

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