A young Australian student visiting Israel on a school trip has been removed from the program after an alleged sexual assault on a girl travelling with the group.
Principal of the Melbourne-based Bialik College, Jeremy Stowe-Linder, told parents from the school that he was urgently flying to Israel on Saturday morning to provide ‘on-ground support’ to the children and teachers still there.
The alleged perpetrator has been removed from the six-week trip, which is taken by year 10 students.
“Bialik College was recently made aware of a serious breach of the rules and expectations surrounding one student attending Bialik’s Chavayah program,” Mr Stowe-Linder told parents in an email seen by The New Daily.
“As a consequence of this isolated incident in Israel, the Bialik student involved has been removed from the program.
“The breach was reported to the supervising staff and the matter is being investigated by Israeli authorities, who are interviewing all parties involved,” he said.
The assault is being investigated by Israeli police, who are interviewing the children involved.
Asking parents not to post on social media, Mr Stowe-Linder said the other students would carry on with the trip.
“I will be joining the program tomorrow evening (Israel time) to provide on-ground support for our teachers and all Bialik students on the program,” he said.
The school trip was meant to be an “exciting, life-changing” event for the students, where they learn about international business, economic partnerships, and technological co-operation between Australia, China and Israel.
“After a whole year of preparation, the day finally arrived,” a post from last year’s trip read on the school’s Facebook page.
“Meeting early at Melbourne Airport on Tuesday, the excitement and nerves were palpable. A few tears were shed and then the most exciting, life-changing experience started – the Bialik Chavayah trip for Year 10 students.”
Israel-based child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks said he had been in contact with Mr Stowe-Linder on his way over to Israel and that the school’s leadership team was handling the issue with the professionalism and sensitivity needed.
“While all cases (and alleged cases) of assault against children are devastating and sensitive, when the alleged perpetrator is also a child, the level of sensitivity is heightened,” he said
“It is important at this time that we refrain from speculation and feeding the rumour mill, as this may simply inflict further damage to the children, directly and indirectly, involved in this matter.
“Our primary concern must be for the well-being of all the children impacted by this case, especially the alleged victim who is to be applauded for her courage in reporting the incident. But we must also allow be cognisant of allowing justice to take its course.”
Last year the school came under fire after former teacher Brendan Cohen, 52, was sentenced to five months in jail after pleading guilty to filming up the skirts of students at Bialik College.
Cohen admitted to creating child pornography by photoshopping faces of 36 children aged from 11 to 17 onto pornographic photos and a video.
At the time, Mr Stowe-Linder labelled the behaviour as sickening.
“I acknowledge and applaud the dignity and bravery of the victims – at our school, at his next school, at the dance school, in shopping centres and in the wider community,” he told The Herald Sun.