I have now read Claire’s article four times. Each time I am deeply saddened by the experiences that she has had to endure, and ashamed and enraged by the behaviour of some of our students that she is describing.
Our first response upon being made aware of the moving and important article published by Claire was to check in with her to see how she was faring in light of the incidents that she wrote of. Her welfare was and is our number one concern. She was also offered support and counselling by the school’s professional team of psychologists.
Claire is a wonderful student, and we are proud that she felt empowered and able to raise these serious concerns. It is our belief that it is due to a culture of openness at Mount Scopus that she was able to speak out and publicise her experiences and thoughts about the matters of sexualised and sexist comments and behaviour exhibited by some of the boys at our school.
There is no doubt that there are some totally unacceptable behaviours, language and attitudes that exist amongst some students in our school. Sadly this is a reflection of what is happening in broader society and schools must lead the way to be at the forefront of change. These issues must be raised and talked about in our school and action must be taken.
These topics were raised by Claire in her article:
- Female students being subjected to inappropriate and unwanted objectification and sexualised behaviour and speech;
- A misogynist, male-oriented, victim blaming culture; and
- A school environment where female students are made to feel unsafe.
These behaviours and attitudes are totally unacceptable. Over the past few years, we have undertaken serious educational programming, in both formal and informal settings, aimed at addressing these concerns.
Some of the programs at Mount Scopus include:
- Developing and implementing a Life Values curricula at Years 7, 8 and 10 focused on healthy, respectful relationships;
- Utilising elements of the Victorian Department of Education’s Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships learning materials in our programming for the year 7 and Year 8 Wellbeing curricula;
- Organising sessions in Secondary school at Years 7,8 and 9 with Tzedek, a community advocacy and education group, focusing on issues such as consent, sexting, the influence of social and other media, and healthy and respectful relationships;
- Incorporating lengthy conversations on safe, respectful and positive interactions amongst peers and across year levels on our Year 10 Leadership camp, our Year 10 camp, and our Year 11 Shabbaton;
- Partnering with Validate Me, an organisation consisting of university age students facilitating conversations about self-esteem, societal norms and expectations;
- Arranging for a full immersive day for our Year 9 students focused on gender expectations and positive, respectful relationships with external providers, The ManCave and Flourish Girl;
- Facilitating student-led initiatives, including discussions and activities marking International Women’s Day and ‘Chat Room’, a forum for informal conversations about issues that are bothering students, including domestic violence and abuse;
- Conducting campaigns and lessons at Years 7 and 8 about the language we use and the impact it can have on others; and
- Conducting sessions with Year 12 students about sexual violence, abuse, toxic masculinity and responsibility as part of our Year 12 Student Development sessions.
As a school our work is clearly not done, and we are again grateful to Claire and others who have had the courage to come forward. We are continually looking for new and innovative ways to learn and teach about these important topics. As a school, we are listening and we are acting. Claire and other students will be spearheading a student-lead Think Tank aimed at tackling the cultural and behavioural issues that she has identified.
We are committed to ensuring that our school environment will be safe, inclusive and respectful to best enable the flourishing of all of our students. Moreover, by educating our students about their rights and responsibilities, we hope to make a difference in broader society and work towards a world of safety, equality and respect for all.