AS of this week, armed guards are for the first time employed by a Jewish school in Melbourne.
Mount Scopus Memorial College’s board made the decision to have armed guards at all three campuses after months of deliberation and in consultation with the Community Security Group (CSG).
The AJN understands that there is no specific or new threat to Mount Scopus, or any other Jewish institution; however, CSG spoke to all Melbourne Jewish schools earlier this year and asked the boards to discuss the possibility of having armed guards.
Mount Scopus principal Rabbi James Kennard stressed that the decision is a reflection on the general increased level of security across Australia. “Security at Mount Scopus Memorial College is under constant review, and we aim to follow best practices at all times,” he said.
“This enhancement of the guards’ equipment reflects the heightened security levels now in place across Australia and worldwide, and is not in response to any particular threat to the college. In taking this decision we have consulted widely, including with Victoria Police.”
Rabbi Kennard added, “Our foremost priority remains the safety of our students and staff.”
Armed guards have been a feature of Jewish institutions and schools in Sydney for more than 20 years.
CSG Victoria CEO Ricky Pearl said the community can be assured that the advice given to Jewish schools “does not relate to any particular threat, but rather to the changed security climate in Australia and around the world”.
He said CSG Victoria is working with each Jewish organisation individually to ensure the safety of all members of the community.
“We are constantly reviewing the security arrangements at all community installations and are working with each organisation to assess their needs.”
Melbourne’s other Jewish schools said they are reviewing their security procedures and will take any action required to keep students and staff safe.
Bialik College principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner said, “We have received the same advice as other schools from CSG. We are constantly reviewing our security arrangements in consultation with government authorities as well as CSG and our security consultant.”
Leibler Yavneh College’s (LYC) board sent a letter to all parents assuring them that their children are safe and that the school will review the necessity of armed guards at the end of this term.
“Needless to say, the prospect of arming guards at our campuses is not one to be taken lightly, with strong arguments both in support and in opposition of such a move,” the statement to parents said. “LYC commissioned a detailed review of our security protocols during 2014, resulting in a number of important changes to security at both the Balaclava Road and Elsternwick campuses.
“Whereas arming of our security guards was not recommended as part of that review, we have nonetheless been assessing the merits and challenges associated with such a move.”
Principal of Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler said the school is “investigating the possibility of armed guards” and that it will make a decision “with the assistance of security experts” in the coming months.
King David School principal Marc Light said its security measures are under constant review “to meet the best interests of our school community”.
He added, “Clearly, we cannot comment publicly on specifics with regards to our or others’ security considerations.”
Sholem Aleichem College’s principal was unavailable for comment this week.