Proud of his heritage

June 2, 2022 by AAP
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Liam Arnold-Levy was practising for his bar mitzvah when he decided to wear a kippah to school to show that he was proud of his Jewish heritage.

Brighton Secondary College

But within the first hour of walking into his year seven class at Brighton Secondary College he says “it was like target practice”.

Fellow students tore the kippah from his head and threw it in the bin.

His notebook was graffitied with the Star of David and his locker defaced with the words “Heil Hitler”.

He had coins thrown of him and was called names including “dirty Jew” and “vermin”.

“The harassment happened every day. It was humiliating,” he told the Federal Court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Feeling frightened and distraught, Mr Arnold-Levy, now aged 21, complained several times to the school’s administration office.

“They wrote down what I told them and said they’d give it to the principal. Nothing ever happened,” he said.

“I can’t explain the emotion I felt when I ‘d gone to ask for help from the school, to make the environment better for me, and no difference was made.”

Mr Arnold-Levy is one of five former students suing Brighton Secondary College, alleging they were subjected to years of anti-Semitic bullying, discrimination and negligence.

The State of Victoria is also being sued as the authority in control of the school. Principal Richard Minack and teachers Paul Varney and Demi Flessa are also named in the suit.

All defendants have denied the allegations brought against them.

The students, who include Joel Kaplan and three minors, allege they were physically and verbally bullied at the school by students and teachers between 2013 and 2020.

The court heard the school was “littered” with swastika graffiti, which was drawn inside toilet cubicles, on chairs and desks. Students, including Mr Arnold-Levy, were also allegedly subjected to Nazi salutes.

The students’ barrister Adam Butt alleged the principal gave speeches endorsing his father, who had connections to the German army during World War II.

“He endorsed his Nazi father as a good man and at least once referred to Jews as subhuman, evil, the N-word,” Mr Butt said.

“We’re talking here about a normalised culture of anti-Semitism.”

He said the school’s failure to protect the students from racial abuse had contravened the Religious Discrimination Act and violated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children.

Defence barrister Chris Young said the respondents denied all allegations brought against them and disputed that the school was negligent to the students.

He said Brighton College had codes of conduct for staff and students, which included bullying and racial discrimination policies.

He said Mr Minack and several teachers will give evidence as witnesses, disputing each individual allegation, and said the principal’s speeches were a “misstatement”.


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