A federal court in Australia has ruled that Brighton Secondary College violated laws prohibiting racial discrimination when it neglected to protect five Jewish students from antisemitic bullying.
“This ruling is an unambiguous victory for the legal rights of Jewish students to be free of antisemitic harassment and intimidation at school,” Brooke Goldstein of The Lawfare Project, a Jewish civil rights group that provided financial and logistical support to the complainants, said on Monday. “It is appalling that this horrific behavior was ignored for so long by the school, and it is shocking the State Government of Victoria disputed every aspect of this claim instead of taking strong and resolute action to remedy the situation and protect these students.”
Goldstein added, “The ruling makes crystal clear that Jew-hatred cannot be tolerated or ignored, but must be rooted out.”
The verdict comes three year after the students came forward accusing administrators of ignoring antisemitic discrimination and fostering a “prison culture” that contravened their human rights.
According to Australian media reports, former Brighton student Liam Arnold-Levy testified that no action was taken after someone punched him in the stomach and threatened to slit his throat, or when others called him “Jewboy,” “f___ing Jew,” and told him to “die in an oven.” In another incident, a school official allegedly accused him of “being dramatic” when a group of female students “violently” pushed him.
Arnold-Levy said that it was only when he transferred to a private Jewish school that he was granted a meeting with Brighton principal Richard Minack, who, during their conversation, said that he did not know that Arnold-Levy had been bullied and denied responsibility but said he felt bad for the pain experienced by the student.
According to The Lawfare Project, the judge who presided over the case determined that Brighton Secondary violated Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act by “failing to take appropriate and reasonable steps to discourage and modify the antisemitic student bullying and harassment behavior,” and that school officials showed an “inexplicable and unusual tolerance for antisemitic graffiti and a preparedness to ignore, downplay, and take less seriously the complaints made by Jewish students and their families.”
Antisemitism in Australian schools has been widely reported.
In July, Australian officials and nonprofit leaders issued statements addressing the problem, following a damning report exposing bullying and harassment of teenage Jewish students attending public schools in the state of Victoria.
That month, the Australian daily The Age reported the stories of three students who either refused to go to school or hid their Jewish identity to avoid allegedly racist behavior from their classmates. A 13-year-old Brunswick Secondary College student was called a “dirty Jew,” flashed Nazi salutes by his classmates, and assaulted, according to the report. Meanwhile, a 14-year-old Brighton Secondary College student found a swastika graffitied on her desk and someone threw a note at her that said “Jewish rat.” And a 12-year-old Rowville Secondary Sports Academy student was told that all Jews were supposed to die with their “hands up.”
The report elicited a response from Victoria’s Department of Education, which said the students’ accounts are “distressing and disturbing and taken extremely serious.” Speaking to The Australian Jewish News, Dvir Abramovich of the Anti-Defamation Commission, a Jewish civil rights organization, said the students’ accounts “are another example of what happens when antisemitism spirals out of control and is allowed to grow toxic and unchecked by teachers.”
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Author: Dion J. Pierre
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