A prestigious Melbourne college has been ordered to pay $435,000 compensation to four students who were subjected to anti-Semitic conduct.
The Federal Court found the school failed to protect the students from anti-Semitic taunts and also Nazi symbols graffitied around the campus.
Prestigious Melbourne college ordered to pay Jewish students
The four students attended Brighton Secondary College between 2015 and 2020.
Plaintiffs Joel and Matt Kaplan, Liam Arnold-Levy, Guy Cohen and Zack Snelling, all claimed they were repeatedly targeted by classmates.
Moreover, they accused college principal Richard Minack of failing to adequately deal with the behaviour.
During evidence in the trial, several witnesses said Mr Minack made references at an assembly to his father being a Nazi and that he was also a “good man”.
“After that, the anti-Semitic jokes increased, the Heil Hitlers increased, the swastikas increased,” plaintiff Matt Kaplan said.
Racial Discrimination Act
Justice Debbie Mortimer found the State of Victoria and principal Minack breached the Racial Discrimination Act for failing to properly address the anti-Semitism.
In a lengthy judgment, Justice Mortimer criticised the conduct of Mr Minack, finding that he failed to punish students who drew Nazi symbols.
She also found he failed to run school-wide campaigns to deter anti-Semitic behaviour.
She said there existed at the College “an inexplicable and unusual tolerance for anti-Semitic graffiti, and a preparedness to ignore, downplay and take less seriously the complaints made by Jewish students and their families”.
“Each applicant left BSC prematurely, and the court has accepted that four out of five of them left because of the anti-Semitism from other students they experienced at BSC and how unsafe and unprotected by Mr Minack and the BSC staff they felt,” she said.
The students alleged Mr Minack also breached the Racial Discrimination Act during a speech to a school assembly, which included remarks that “offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated Jewish students”.
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Justice Mortimer awarded Zack Snelling $245,948; Joel Kaplan $63,780; Matt Kaplan $60,000; Guy Cohen $55,000; and finally Liam Arnold-Levy $11,532.
She also ordered the state to issue an apology to the students before 6 October.
The judge described the suffering experienced by Mr Snelling — which included physical assaults — as the “most tragic” of the group.
“The absence of support shown to him and his family, should make the leadership cohort of BSC hang their heads in shame,” she said.
In describing his ordeal, Mr Snelling said he was made to feel “degraded and horrible”.
Discrimination lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins said anti-discrimination laws apply in education settings.
“Discrimination laws apply at work, education in addition to the provision of goods and services – including accommodation,” he said.
“Those who breach these laws will find themselves facing penalties as well as orders to pay hefty compensation.”
Meanwhile, Mr Dryley-Collins advised anyone who experiences discrimination based on race or religious belief to seek urgent expert advice.
“Everybody deserves to feel safe when they take part in community life – and that includes when they go to school or university,” he said.
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