Melbourne’s Leibler Yavneh College this month launched a wellbeing policy to ensure a safe and inclusive community for LGBTI+ students and staff.
The policy was created to clarify the independent Jewish school’s position on diversity and wellbeing and ensure that all students and staff continue to feel safe and supported.
It adapts and provides an Australian context to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s publication ‘The Wellbeing of LGBTI+ Pupils – A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools’, which addresses religious laws and the emotional importance of diversity and wellbeing.
“Caring for the wellbeing of LGBTI+ students does not negate [or] detract from our commitment to Torah and Torah values,” said the school in a letter to the community.
“It is our obligation, as part of our commitment to Torah.”
Co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne Michael Barnett praised the college for its new policy.
“The policy sends an unequivocal message that the welfare of LGBTIQ+ students, or those perceived to be, is no less important than that of students who conform to traditional sexual and gender identities,” said Barnett.
“If the various Jewish and government schools I attended through the 1970s and 80s had had a policy like this in place at the time, my self-esteem and academic results would not have suffered due to the daily torment and bullying I experienced, just for being perceived to have been gay.”
Leibler Yavneh College teachers have undertaken professional development to ensure that they are equipped to support LGBTI+ students.
The new policy states that the college values and respects diversity and is committed to providing a safe, nurturing environment.
It acknowledges the harms that bullying and discrimination cause and states that these behaviours will not be tolerated.
Staff are provided with a range of strategies and resources for supporting LGBTI+ students.
“When people are encouraged to be their authentic selves, and provided with an environment that nurtures and celebrates who they are, they excel in their achievements,” said Barnett.