AS The AJN was about to go to press this week, we received news that five ex-students of Brighton Secondary College have taken legal action against the Victorian Department of Education over their treatment while they were at the school.
The allegations, contained in court documents, also draw in how the school’s authorities handled what has been described by the students as an antisemitic culture.
In 2020, The AJN reported exclusively on allegations of horrific antisemitism at the school – our coverage leading to a state government investigation into antisemitic and racist behaviour. A slate of recommendations were issued on how the school should monitor antisemitic behaviour and how it should handle the reporting of any such incidents.
Although the report’s depth was at the time judged as “exceptional” by the investigation’s intercultural adviser Dr Andre Oboler, The AJN also heard families of students were “deeply disappointed” the findings did not go far enough.
Antisemitism in Victorian schools is sadly widespread. In 2019, we reported on an alarming incident in which a 12-year-old Jewish boy at Cheltenham Secondary College was forced to kiss the feet of a Muslim boy. And at Hawthorn West Primary School, a five-year-old Jewish boy was called “Jewish vermin”, a “Jewish cockroach” and “dirty Jew”, eventually resulting in him developing bed-wetting.
When antisemitism rears its ugly head in class or in the playground, teachers have a duty to intervene and to educate offenders. So we are encouraged that, in the case of Brighton Secondary College, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), in conjunction with other communal organisations, has introduced a customised bystander training program to equip teachers at the school with the tools to handle any incidents of antisemitism that may occur.
As JCCV president Daniel Aghion emphasised this week, the purpose of the initiative at Brighton Secondary College has been to educate school administrators and teachers about antisemitic conduct and how to effectively respond to it. The JCCV expects that the bystander training program will help the school with the tools to effectively deal with any such behaviour.