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AIJAC welcomes Federal Court judgment in Brighton Secondary College antisemitism case

Sep 14, 2023 | AIJAC

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has welcomed the Federal Court judgment, released today, in Kaplan v State of Victoria – a case launched by five Melbourne Jewish students claiming that they were not protected by Brighton Secondary College against years of antisemitic bullying, harassment and violence they suffered at the school between 2013 and 2020.

Federal Court Chief Justice Debra Mortimer upheld parts of the students’ claims, finding that the school’s principal failed to properly address the antisemitic behaviour or take appropriate steps to stop widespread swastika graffiti. The former students were collectively awarded approximately $436,060 in compensation and Chief Justice Mortimer ordered Victoria’s Education Department to apologise.

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein said, “The five students who launched this case – Matt and Joel Kaplan, Liam Arnold-Levy, Guy Cohen and Zack Snelling – along with their families, deserve both admiration and thanks for the important results they have achieved today. They doubtless paid a considerable personal price to see justice done at last.”

“What was particularly telling about the verdict was that it made it clear that Jewish students at Brighton Secondary College were treated differently compared to other minority groups when they reported bigotry and racial abuse,” Dr. Rubenstein added.

“We hope that this verdict will contribute to greater public awareness of the issue of antisemitic bullying in schools across Australia – and the responsibility of teachers, school administrators and State Departments of Education to do more to combat this serious problem, which anecdotal evidence suggests is far from rare. Mere statements and toothless policies condemning such racist bullying are not enough. AIJAC hopes that this verdict will spur the Victorian Department of Education – along with its counterparts in all Australian states – to urgently develop new best-practice programs to deal with antisemitism in schools, and then implement them in a concerted and consistent manner as a high-priority,” he concluded.

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