Melbourne Jewish School Launches Well-Being Policy

Melbourne Jewish School Launches Well-Being Policy
Image: Rabbi Danny Mirvis

Melbourne-based Jewish school Leibler Yavneh College has launched a well-being policy for its LGBTQI students. The policy, the school explained, will ensure a safe and inclusive community for all students, staff members and the community.

Founded in 1961, the school located in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick, has over 700 students enrolled in its primary and secondary sections.

“Caring for the wellbeing of LGBTQI students does not negate nor detract from our commitment to the Torah and Torah values. Rather, it is our obligation, as part of our commitment to the Torah,” Principal Cherylyn Skewes said in a letter to parents informing them about the new policy.

In 2018, the school had published a guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools to ensure the well-being of LGBTQI students. The new well-being policy builds on the guide and takes into account the “harmful effects of bullying, name-calling and insensitivity.” LYC’s Positive Relationships (including Anti-Bullying/Harassment) Policy has expanded the definition of discrimination to now include “homophobia and other hostile behaviours towards students relating to gender issues and sexuality.”

Discrimination now includes homophobic, biphobic or transphobic language that is used, even without any malicious intent. The school said that its teachers had undertaken professional development to equip with the skills need to support students who identify as LGBTQI.

 “Research has found that LGBTQI students are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harm, as are children of LGBTQI parents. As a result, there is overwhelming statistical evidence that LGBTQI students experience higher rates of absenteeism, poorer mental health outcomes, and increased risk-taking behaviour including self-harm and suicide. All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can be affected by anti-LGBTQI bullying, which can be used to aggressively enforce gender stereotypes and limit young people’s academic, career and personal life aspirations,” the policy said.

“I applaud Yavneh’s leadership in sending a positive message of care and respect for all students, staff and community members,” Rabbi Danny Mirvis, who led the initiative to draft the new policy, said.

LYC is not the only Jewish establishment in the news for supporting the LGBTQI community however. Recently, Jewish Care Victoria achieved the Rainbow Tick accreditation for LGBTQI inclusion.

In 2018 Jewish Care Victoria along with nine other faith-based organisations had pledged their commitment to ensure that all their services were inclusive of LGBTQI people. The other organisations that signed the pledge included Anglicare Victoria, Vincent Care Victoria, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, The Salvation Army, McAuley Community Services for Women, MacKillop Family Services, Sacred Heart Mission, Good Samaritan Inn, and the Uniting Church Victoria and Tasmania.

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