I began my high school journey at Brighton Secondary College as a young Jewish boy who was preparing for his bar-mitzvah.
I was starting to become interested and more aware of my Jewish heritage and what kind of path I wished to pursue.
I was introduced to a world of possibilities and information with which I became enthralled.
As I decided to pursue the path of religious life in year 7, I began to read books and take time to research about things that I was personally interested in, such as why certain foods were prohibited to be eaten and why we can’t use technology on Shabbat.
Because I was in a public space, and Jewish history books were not offered at the school library, I brought my own books from home.
Naturally, some students began asking questions about what I was reading.
I answered with enthusiasm, hoping that people would begin to desire to learn about other religions and heritages,
This was the beginning of what I initially thought was friendly banter and playful references.
However, after several weeks of ‘hey Jew’ and ‘Jew boy,’ I decided to speak up and request for these references to holt.
It was then that things began to escalate.
It was after the first term at Brighton that pupils were making it a daily mission to call me names and phrases that I requested that they stopped.
Further, into the term, I became tired of these phrases and went to the secondary office to report these derogatory phrases.
However, even though I was told by the receptionist that the note that she wrote down with all the information that I gave her would be given to ‘the vice-principal’ and that I would be informed of the outcome, I never received any form of note or talk of any nature, even after three weeks of patiently waiting for a response.
This extended till the end of the term.
It was then that I confided in a family friend of mine who was in the year level above me, who was supportive and understanding of the situation.
He was one of the first to warn me of the typical situations that others were subjected to on a daily basis.
He told me ‘not to wear the lanyard around my neck’ as it was a target point ‘for people to strangle you with’.
I could not believe what I was told, and was under the impression that this was a joke until I was the one who witnessed it first hand.
A boy from my year level grabbed the key around my neck and turned it around to face the opposite direction and started pulling it away, causing me to fall backwards onto the ground where I was kicked and spat on which coincided with further name-calling.
By the end of year 7, I decided to make the brave decision to wear a Kippah at school, a small green kippah that was made for me by my sister for my bar-mitzvah.
I wanted to show people who I was and how proud I was to be Jewish.
This backfired harder than.
I did not expect the anti-Semitism to which I was subjected to grow exponentially within days of when I started to wear it.
Students were swearing at me in the corridors, yelling at me to go ‘burn in an oven’.
Drawings were done in my books when I wasn’t in the classroom of a yellow star and a Magen David in the centre.
This was my first year of high school.
No help was provided.
No meetings with anyone, even though I went to the secondary office more than 15 times from the point that this started.
I was apprehensive about beginning year 8, after my experiences at this school.
I only hoped that things would get better, that students would begin to see that religion is not something to be targeted or used as an excuse to be bullied for.
Sadly, I was wrong, terribly wrong.
Things got much worse.
I was not only targeted by the same students but also friends of mine, people whom I was under the impression would support me.
I was seen as an easy target due to my lack of ability to stand up for myself.
The year 8 building was large and had hundreds of people passing through every day.
But no one stopped to help.
When I was pushed down and kicked at, students would walk past and look the other way.
I would avoid certain places as I knew that these were areas that the bullies would reside in, and if I was in the cafeteria, I would hide until the area was empty to ensure that I wouldn’t be bothered.
I notified the school another ten times within two weeks regarding the many instances of anti-Semitic name-calling and physical abuse, including hitting and punching.
This was a daily normality within the grounds of Brighton high.
Students were essentially allowed to bully with no repercussions for their actions.
Older students would instigate the name-calling and would egg-on other students to do the same.
Teachers would walk pass and do nothing.
In class, they would check up on me and ask if I was ok, but nothing was reported to the principal, and nothing was done to protect vulnerable students.
By the end of year 8, I was tired of this disgusting behaviour
I was tired of the institution failing to discipline those that were causing harm to others.
I hated school, I dreaded coming to school, I would try and make myself look sick to stay home from school.
I would try anything to avoid meeting those students that caused me such mental and physical harm.
.t one time, I was packing my bag at my locker, and a year 8 girl walking with her friends came up to me.
I knew her from French class and expected her to ask me a question about the homework that we were given in the last lesson.
However, to my surprise, the girl merely walked up to me and kicked me in the stomach which caused me to fall over.
I ran to the year level coordinator to inform her of what had happened and was told to tell her the name of the girl and to wait in her office.
After 5 minutes, the teacher came back and told me that I was lying and to not bother her again with this ‘nonsense’.
No one from the school ever contacted me to ask questions about what had been occurring, no matter how many times I tried to talk to the school psychologists or the school-teachers.
No one would do anything to help my situation.
Year 9 was the year that things escalated and when the bullying had reached a new level.
During lunchtime, I was wandering around the year nine-building when I was shoved into the boys’ toilets and threatened with a knife to remain silent and not to fight back.
I was punched and hurt and abused so badly that I was unable to leave the cubicle for an hour after the attack.
I went to the office and told them and showed them what had occurred.
Another note was written down and said that it would go to the vice-principal straight away.
I never heard a word from anyone.
I left Brighton Secondary by the middle of term 1 of year nine and moved to a Jewish school that knew of my desire to learn about my heritage in an institution that supports students and cares for their welfare.
I was listened to by the teacher who was in charge of student welfare, who made it her job to get justice for me. She set up an interview with the principle which had switched when I had left the school.
The result of the interview was a waste of time,.
The principal and vice-principal denied ever receiving a note about what had been happening.
They also never promised to look into what had occurred or to punish those that had caused me so much pain.
Students at the school have been subjected to years of physical and verbal torture, have been left hopeless because they have never been given the help that they need
It’s time for the institution to learn how to protect its students and to fight against bullies if it’s not stopped now, then when?