Brighton Secondary College principal Richard Minack says sorry to student in anti-Semitic bullying case

Minack replied: “I think we sanctioned [the student].”

Minack accepted it was ultimately his responsibility as principal when student Matt Kaplan left the school over anti-Semitism. On their exit forms – which are filled out when a student leaves prematurely – two students, Matt Kaplan and Snelling, both wrote that their reason for departing was “anti-Semitism”.

Five former Brighton Secondary College students say they faced anti-Semitism at the school between 2013 and 2020.

Five former Brighton Secondary College students say they faced anti-Semitism at the school between 2013 and 2020.Credit:Joe Armao

“To the extent they want to leave for those reasons … that’s a failing on our part,” Minack said.

He told the court he and school administrators dealt with bullying linked to discrimination but admitted that for much of the period in which the Jewish students were harassed the school did not have policies to specifically identify or prevent anti-Semitic behaviour among the student body.

“I had done speeches that talked about expected behaviours and discrimination, but I can’t remember making reference to [anti-Semitism specifically],” Minack said.

Loading

He also said the school did not send out communications to students and parents, and did not hang posters warning that anti-Semitism was not tolerated at the school. The school has since employed a specific method to log such complaints.

Minack was asked by Butt for his reaction to an incident in which a Jewish student was told that his father “must be burnt because he’s a Jew”. The child who made the comment, who Minack said had a learning disability, was suspended.

“It’s horrible,” Minack said to Butt, “it’s a horrible thing to hear.”

Butt pressed Minack about the testimony of one of the children bringing court action, who believed he was not “allowed” to be Jewish at the school, and that he felt being Jewish wasn’t “the right thing to do”.

The child said his kippah, also known as a yarmulke, was removed by other students without his consent, and that he reported it to the school about 10 times but nothing happened. Minack admitted it could be a breach of racial discrimination laws.

Former Brighton Secondary College students Matt Kaplan (left) and Liam Arnold-Levy have accused the school of ignoring complaints of anti-Semitism.

Former Brighton Secondary College students Matt Kaplan (left) and Liam Arnold-Levy have accused the school of ignoring complaints of anti-Semitism.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascuí

Minack told the court that, in his opinion, it was not always appropriate to punish children with a sanction if they engaged in anti-Semitic behaviour and sometimes a conversation with the child about why their actions were wrong, or hurtful, was more suitable.

The court previously heard the Jewish students suffered a range of anxiety disorders due to their treatment and four of the five left the school mid-year due to a “dehumanising” environment. Two failed to finish their VCE studies.

The trial, before Justice Debra Mortimer, continues.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.

Leave a Comment