The principal of Brighton Secondary College, who was the focus of a recent court case on antisemitism, has quit.
Richard Minack’s resignation follows last month’s Federal Court ruling that five Jewish students suffered discrimination and bullying while he was in charge of the school.
They were awarded a total of $435,000 in compensation.
The news came in an email from the Victorian Education Department to parents.
It said acting principal Leisa Higgins will continue and the job will be advertised next year.
Daniel Aghion, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, said, “It is appropriate and necessary that Richard Minack ends his relationship with Brighton Secondary College following the Federal Court judgement. We urge the Victorian Department of Education to continue taking all necessary steps to ensure Jewish students are safe, physically and culturally, in Victorian schools.”
Dvir Abramovich, chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, believes history will not remember Minack kindly.
“There is no doubt that there will be many Jewish parents, of past and present students, and those brave young adults who sued BSC and won, who will breathe a sigh of relief at this welcome news. I … hope that the Education Department assures us that the former principal will not lead another school,” he said.
The Federal Court was told Jewish students endured antisemitic bullying at Brighton Secondary College while Minack was principal.
One of the plaintiffs, Matt Kaplan, told the court that antisemitic jokes, Heil Hitler salutes and Nazi swastikas increased after Minack made a speech talking about his father fighting for Germany during World War II.
In her ruling, Justice Debra Mortimer said the leadership cohort at the school should “hang their heads in shame”.
“I am satisfied Mr Minack, the BSC leadership cohort and the teaching staff took no, and certainly no adequate or systematic, action to modify student behaviour, to condemn the swastika graffiti and to implement a clear and consistent discipline program as part of any behaviour modification approach,” she said.
Adam Butt, a barrister who was on the boys’ legal team said, “The judgment of the court has vindicated my clients’ grievances and the remedies which the court has imposed are appropriate and go a long way to bringing justice to them. Everyone who worked to achieve this end, I’m grateful for their assistance.”
Janet Abadee, mother of two of the Jewish former Brighton Secondary College students, applicants, Joel and Matthew Kaplan, said Butt gave all five boys a voice which they never had been given.
“Adam’s ability to access each witness and change direction with a witness was amazing. He managed to get the truth out of the principal and teachers even though they didn’t want to give it to him,” she said.
Suzanne Rutland – an Australian Jewish historian and professor emerita of Hebrew, biblical and Jewish studies at the University of Sydney, and who appeared as an expert witness – said the case is a significant one.
“This is a landmark case which will have ramifications not only in Australia but in other parts of the English-speaking world, where there have been reports of antisemitism in high schools, but no parallel legal action,” she said.
Rutland said when school students experience antisemitism in schools, all that they and their parents want to do is to move to another school and forget what has happened to them.
“This is what is unique about the Brighton case – the courage of the five boys and their families. They were prepared to suffer the consequences in the name of justice,” she said.