Principal refused apology to bullied pupil

·2-min read

A Melbourne principal says he refused to apologise to a student who left the school due to anti-Semitic bullying because their claims were unproven.

Brighton Secondary College principal Richard Minack on Thursday appeared as a witness at a Federal Court trial brought by five former students against him, the school, teachers and the state of Victoria.

The students allege they experienced anti-Semitic bullying, discrimination and negligence at the school between 2013 and 2020, which has been denied by all respondents.

Ex-student Liam Arnold-Levy previously told the court he suffered a relentless campaign of bullying while at the school, including being held at knife-point in the toilets by other students.

He requested a meeting with Mr Minack after moving to a new school, as he was seeking closure and wanted an apology.

"I declined to make that apology," Mr Minack told the court.

"I said, 'unfortunately this is the first I've seen these allegations and from my point of view ... these are unsubstantiated allegations'."

The principal was asked about anti-Semitic bullying reports from other students, including Joel Kaplan who was called a "f***ing Jew".

Mr Minack said he investigated many of Mr Kaplan's claims and found they were often "conflict situations" with other students.

"Joel was exhibiting undesirable behaviours, unfortunately when children in school are in a conflict situation they say things that are designed to hurt the other person, that are designed to sting," he said.

Earlier, Mr Minack said he did not see any swastika graffiti in classrooms or the school yard, despite students claiming they saw hundreds of the symbols while at the school.

He said students reported swastika graffiti to him "from time to time" and he would instruct for it to be immediately removed.

This included Corey Fooks, who previously told the court he reported the graffiti to Mr Minack 15 times, including on concrete pavement outside the campus, but it was never removed.

"I wrote to council and asked them to remove it," Mr Minack said.

"I never inspected the pavement to see if it was removed, no one reported that afterwards so I assumed it had been."

Students claim anti-Semitic graffiti at the school increased after Mr Minack gave speeches referencing World War II and his grandfather's involvement with the German Army.

He said he did not notice more swastikas after his speeches, but he did notice an increase in graffitied slurs against Black people.

The trial continues before Justice Debra Mortimer.

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