Antisemitic bullying: MPs say enough is enough

July 9, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Two Victorian opposition members of parliament have criticised the Victorian Department of Education following reports of anti-Semitic bullying in a State secondary school in Melbourne.

David Southwick

Member for Caulfield David Southwick and member for Brighton James Newbury have described the media report as highlighting “the systemic failures of the Department of Education”.

In a joint statement, the two parliamentarians stated: “Over a period of five years, two Jewish students at this school report endured ongoing bullying based on their faith and identify, with reports of vile names and derogatory comments being directed at the students and teachers themselves refusing to acknowledge their Israeli heritage, instead labelling them “Palestinian” and requiring them to remove their kippah.”

The mother of the boys bullied at Brighton Secondary School did not receive a response to a letter she sent to the Board of Education.

Melbourne’s Cheltenham Secondary College and East Hawthorn Primary Schools have been involved in two serious other incidents which have had major media coverage.

James Newbury

David Southwick and James Newbury said: “As members of the current Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Victoria’s anti-vilification laws, we know that there are systemic issues within the Victorian Department of Education and highlight a failing of the Andrews Labor Government to address and rectify anti-Semitic bullying within Victoria’s education system.

Enough is enough. Every student deserves to be safe in the classroom, schoolyard and within the school community. Daniel Andrews must urgently and personally address the systemic failings with the Department of Education that has enabled repeated cases of anti-Semitic bullying to occur.”

The Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino told J-Wire: “We take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. These accusations are extremely serious and I will not stand for this kind of behaviour.

James Merlino

As soon as we became aware of these disturbing allegations, we commenced a full investigation. I want to get to the bottom of exactly what has happened here to ensure they were dealt with appropriately.

We are already implementing actions and reforms to ensure all of our schools respond appropriately to reports of anti-Semitism, and that Jewish students and their family feel supported and safe in our schools.”

Brighton Secondary College principal Richard Minack said: “We do not tolerate anti-Semitism or any other form of discrimination at Brighton Secondary College.

On occasions, the school has become aware of some students exhibiting completely unacceptable anti-Semitic behaviours.

In each instance, the school has taken the issue seriously, investigated it thoroughly and taken appropriate disciplinary action.

We work hard to tackle discrimination at our school and we will continue to run anti-discrimination sessions, including the Click Against Hate program.

Brighton Secondary College acknowledges the seriousness of these allegations and will cooperate fully with the Department’s investigation.”

The Victorian Government says the families involved will be told of the result of the investigation.

From this year, all Victorian government secondary school students in years 9 and 10 will be taught about the Holocaust, to tackle rising anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice in our schools and broader society.

The Department of Education is also developing new and refreshed teaching and learning resources for Holocaust education in partnership with the Victorian Jewish community and Gandel Philanthropy.

A new Common Funding Agreement has been signed between the Department and Courage to Care for 2020-2022, so the organisation can continue to its work delivering student workshops that promote upstander behaviour to encourage young people to take a stand against prejudice and discrimination.

The Department has established a dedicated contact desk that students, family and schools can approach for advice in the event of an anti-Semitic or other incident involving ethnic or religious bullying or vilification.

A new advisory group including representatives from Jewish youth groups and the United Jewish Education Board to provide the Victorian Government with information about young people’s experiences of anti-Semitism. This advisory group will be asked to advise on safe, constructive and practical ways to address anti-Semitism affecting Victorian students.

The Department is working closely with the United Jewish Education Board to support the expansion of their Jewish cultural and Hebrew language programs into Victorian government schools, as well as with the Holocaust Centre, the United Jewish Education Board and Gandel Philanthropy to develop teaching and learning resources.

The Department is continuing to meet with the Anti-Defamation Commission, Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission, and the United Jewish Education Board to discuss the implementation of the actions from the review.

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