‘A normalised culture of antisemitism’: students sue Melbourne school, alleging Jews were bullied | Melbourne

A Melbourne school principal has been accused of giving speeches endorsing Nazis, calling Jewish people subhuman, and failing to protect his students from racial discrimination.

Five former Brighton Secondary College students are suing the school, alleging they were subjected to years of antisemitic bullying, discrimination, and negligence.

Defense barrister Chris Young has said the school, the state of Victoria, and the other respondents denied all of the allegations.

The students, Joel Kaplan and Liam Arnold-Levy, and three minors allege they experienced physical and verbal bullying by students and teachers between 2013 and 2020.

The principal, Richard Minack, and two teachers, Paul Varney and Demi Flessa are also named in the suit.

The school was “littered” with swastika graffiti drawn on students’ hands and desks, the students’ barrister Adam Butt told the federal court on Wednesday. Students were subjected to Nazi salutes, he said.

The court heard that Minack allegedly gave multiple speeches endorsing his father and grandfather, who had connections to the German army during the second world war.

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

The state is also being sued, accused of condoning the behavior.

Two students allege they were held at knifepoint or assaulted by fellow students who were not punished.

One says a teacher wouldn’t allow him to wear a kippah or yarmulke, and another says he was told to remove his Star of David necklace.

Another student said they could not complete a project on Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Melbourne school

“Four out of five of my clients had to leave Brighton part way through a school year because the hostile school environment was intolerable,” Butt said. “We’re talking here about a normalized culture of antisemitism.”

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

“They didn’t feel like they could be openly Jewish at the school,” Butt said.

Arnold-Levy told the court he was practicing for his bar mitzvah when he decided to wear a kippah to school to show he was proud of his Jewish heritage.

But within the first hour of walking into his year 7 class, “it was like target practice”, he claimed. 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 was defaced with “Heil Hitler”. He told the court he had coins thrown at him and was called names including “dirty Jew” and “vermin”.

“The harassment happened daily – it was humiliating,” he said on Wednesday.

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

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

Young said Brighton college had codes of conduct for staff and students, including bullying and racial discrimination policies.

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

The trial before justice Debbie Mortimer continues.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.