A 12-year-old Jewish seventh grader at Cheltenham Secondary College in Melbourne was forced to kneel down and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate, Australian media reported Thursday.
The boy was told: Bow down and kiss the feet of the Muslim boy, or face a beating by the nine other boys who circled him in the park. He obeyed and images of the incident were posted on Instagram. No disciplinary action was taken against the boys who were involved in the assault, which took place in a public park.
Australian media also reported a second alleged incident—both took place in 2019—when a 5-year-old Jewish student at Hawthorn West Primary School was called “Jewish cockroach” and was repeatedly tormented by his classmates in the school toilets.
Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission has sounded the alarm about the “rapidly spreading” crisis of anti-Semitic bullying in Victoria State schools.
Both boys have since left their schools, and the 5-year-old is being home schooled.
The mother of the 12-year-old reported that both Cheltenham Secondary College and the Education Department have denied their responsibility for the shocking and well publicized shoe-kissing incident, because it did not take place on school grounds.
“I took such offense with the Education Department, because there was nothing they did to protect my son at all, at any point in time – that’s what’s cut me up,” the humiliated boy’s mother said.
“Essentially, everyone’s solution to this problem is to send your child to a Jewish day school,” the mother told The Australian Jewish News, but added, “I don’t know. Do we live in a society where we really have to do that in order to be safe?”
The same mother reached out to the parents of the Muslim boy, and they were “horrified.”
“We sat down, his parents, the two boys and myself, around the table and explained the velocity of [the assault] and what it meant to us as parents as far as building bridges between Jews and Muslims in society and not creating division like that photo does,” the mother said.
One of the boys who watched the shoe kissing in the park later punched the Jewish boy in the face, also bruising his back and cutting the skin of his shoulder. For that, the attacker was suspended for five days, because it took place in a school locker room, which is on school grounds.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, chairman of Australia’s Anti- Defamation Commission, told Daily Mail Australia: “This is a stain on Victoria’s education system that will long endure. Bullying and harassment of Jewish students at public schools is a deeply embedded virus that is reaching pitch-fever and should alarm us all. We are gradually reaching a point of no return.”
“To think that in 2019 Jewish pupils are subjected to violence, verbal insults and taunts, bigoted jokes, social exclusion, demeaning text messages and malicious Facebook posts is heartbreaking,” Abramovich continued. “The kids are shaken and traumatized. Too often, parents are concerned that the anti-Semitic abuse will escalate if they notify the school since their child will become even a bigger target.”