Some parents of male students at a school in Australia are seething after their sons were forced to stand up in assembly and apologize to their female classmates on behalf of their gender.
The incident happened at Brauer College, a senior school in Warrnambool, Victoria, on Wednesday. One parent, Danielle Shephard, who has a 12-year-old son at the school, told 7News her son was feeling confused after being told to apologize.
“He said that he was made to stand up and basically apologise … It wasn’t explained properly to the male students what they were doing or why they were doing it,” she said.
The news came after James Merlino, acting premier and education minister in the state of Victoria, announced that lessons about consent would become mandatory in state schools in Victoria from next month—in an expansion of the Victorian government’s “Respectful Relationships” program.
The consent classes were announced amid a national conversation about the sexual harassment of girls, sparked in part by multiple allegations of assault and harassment on campus from students at Wesley College, a top private school in Melbourne.
When the Respectful Relationships program began, it focused more generally on relationships, sexuality and safety. The Victorian government has said teachers will be given extra resources and guidance to prepare them to teach lessons about consent from April.
Brauer College organised the assembly about respect for women and girls, but parents weren’t told what form the discussion would take, 7News reported.
The school’s principal, Jane Boyle, told the network that while the assembly was “well-intended,” she recognised that the public apology was “inappropriate.”
Boyle said in a statement: “Schools play an important role in the promotion of safety and respect of all students, and discussions in schools around respect towards girls and women are a key part of this vital work.
“This week, at a whole school assembly, Brauer College discussed the topic of respect for woman and the importance of bystander behaviour and speaking up to report incidents of inappropriate behaviour.
“The assembly included the screening of a video message by Brisbane Boys’ College Captain Mason Black about being proactive in stopping incidents of sexual assault and harassment.
“As part of this discussion, boys were asked to stand as a symbolic gesture of apology for the behaviours of their gender that have hurt or offended girls and women.
“In retrospect, while well-intended, we recognise that this part of the assembly was inappropriate.”
Boyle said the school would contact the parents to explain the reasons behind the assembly.
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