Five former pupils are suing Brighton Secondary College in Victoria, Australia, reportedly accusing it of tolerating an antisemitic culture.
News reports in 2020 about allegations of antisemitism at the school were followed by the launch of an investigation by the Victorian Department of Education. The 124-page resulting report included eighteen recommendations to improve the reporting and the monitoring policies at the school, and other mechanisms to deal with racist and antisemitic behaviour.
Now, five former pupils are suing the school, reportedly alleging that it tolerated an antisemitic culture that “robbed them of their right to be educated in safety”. Twenty other students are involved in the legal action as well.
One pupil described the school as a “prison culture” and how reporting bullying to staff would only increase its severity. Knife assault is among the incidents that the boy claims to have faced.
The pupils also claim that they were discriminated against by the school’s administration. One student alleges that he was criticised by a teacher because he had “started growing facial hair in accordance with Jewish tradition and law”. The boys claimed that the school’s efforts to address antisemitism were poor, including one class where the Holocaust graphic novel Maus was taught, and teachers were unable to stop laughter and Jewish pupils being called “rats”.
The school has denied legal liability but has reportedly admitted that there were some acts of antisemitism. However, the school has claimed that “the antisemitic acts were small in number and done by a small number of students”. The school also rejected the accusation that it tolerated swastika graffiti.
The case comes as the Jewish Community Council of Victory launches a professional learning programme and a bystander training programme at Brighton Secondary College to give teachers training for how to deal with Antisemitism.
A case against the State of Victoria was launched last year.
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