Australian school students have been subjected to rampant bullying because of their religious beliefs, according to a study into state schools. Sydney University’s Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland and Professor Zehavit Gross from Bar Ilan University in Israel found Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu students all being teased over their faith. They conducted hundreds of interviews with students, teachers and families in four states over four years and found cases of vilification were higher in Sydney and Melbourne. Their report concluded that principals were often unaware of the problem or reluctant to deal with it, while students and families played down the abuse and tried to hide their faith. Sometimes teachers were the bullies. The professors told Eternity News they were shocked by what they consider a ‘real scandal’.
Professor Gross explained: “I thought that in a post-modern world, children have the right to pray if they want. What does it mean to be in a democratic country if you cannot choose democratically to pray or not to pray? What does it mean to live in a multicultural society when you have to hide your religion?” Professor Rutland says: “We are facing serious denial that religious bullying exists in schools.” They said the big question is whether authorities are also going to deny or ignore the problem, or deal with it openly and professionally. They said there was an urgent need for professional development starting with school principals. McCrindle Research undertook supplementary research which found one in four Australians have experienced discrimination because of their religion or religious views. That increased to one in three among just Gen-Z and Gen-Y.
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