STUDENTS SAY IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT MOUNT SCOPUS IT WOULD BE….
“Get better security so the bullies who bullied me will get caught”
“Prioritise student wellbeing above academic excellence”
“The lack of punishment for bullies and racist or sexist jokes”
“Plz made more rights for lgbtq ppl (people) at Mount Scopus”
“Male Hebrew teachers – they are creepy …”
“Toxic, competitive culture”
“Implement a compulsory consent and respect program”Source: Child Wise report 2022
REPORT REVEALS SCHOOL FAILURES
May 28, 2023 | Sunday Herald Sun
EXCLUSIVE A leading Melbourne private school ignored red flags about a senior staff member who engaged popular girls in “highly sexualised communication”, a secret report has revealed.
Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the full findings of the damning review into the culture at Mount Scopus Memorial College.
The report reveals a “lack of appropriate response by leaders to serious complaints and allegations” regarding child safety over several years.
Staff who raised child-safe concerns faced “retribution” as the school “acted to address the wellbeing and reputation of the accused staff members, over the wellbeing of students making allegations,” it states.
Students and past students reporting abuse were offered meetings “with the male principal only, meetings were held with doors closed, no formal detailed record of meetings were made”, the report states.
Girls were also asked if they wanted to “confess” anything in relation to a staff member who groomed them.
The report also details homophobia towards LGBTIQ+ students, favouritism towards top-performing students, peer-to-peer bullying and teachers talking in “degrading” terms about students.
The report by Child Wise was commissioned in February 2022 following the sacking of the long-serving director of studies Jared Alford amid findings of serious sexual misconduct.
The report states Mr Alford “groomed an entire school community, including staff and leadership … and worked his way into positions of trust and authority in the school”.
“Concurrently observations were made about inappropriate contact with certain ‘favoured’ students, including highly sexualised communication,” it states.
Mr Alford was facing allegations of misconduct from at least 10 women when he left the Burwood college in late November 2021.
The report said Mr Alford used the informal Jewish Life program to “expose children to harm and ongoing risk”, particularly “high achievers” and “popular girls”.
The school’s treatment of complainants was slammed in the report for being “not trauma-informed and not aligned with best practices”. Rather than tell the school community about the allegations, the school breached child safety practices by telling students Mr Alford was ill and “should be written to with well wishes”.
Mr Alford was also “invited to an end-of-year gathering and a farewell speech was given … where his contribution was celebrated” in a further breach of good practice.
Last year, Rabbi Kennard released the review’s 49 recommendations for strengthening child safety at the school. He committed to implementing them, but he did not release the full report.
A former Mount Scopus student who graduated in 2021 told the Sunday Herald Sun the findings in the report illustrated the school’s “toxic” culture. “It’s obvious why they wanted to keep this damning report a secret,” he said. “I’m still traumatised by my experience at the school, I was bullied constantly. When I made the complaint to my school leaders, they told me to basically ‘toughen up’.”
Another former student, who offered support to women making reports to the school about Mr Alford, said: “I also agree with the findings in the Child Wise report because for years the faculty has not been properly trained to deal with issues such as sexual misconduct.”
Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse director Phillip Weinberg said the Child Wise report was consistent with the accounts of Mt Scopus victims and survivors who bravely shared their experiences with his organisation.
Rabbi Kennard will retire at the end of 2023. He was contacted for comment.