MORIAH College will commence its protective behaviours and sex and life education program for primary students from the coming term as the school commits to “continuously reviewing and improving all that we do” amid the national conversation about sexual consent education.
Last week, college principal Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, together with the high school leadership and wellbeing team, met online with 22-year-old former Kambala student Chanel Contos, who started a petition earlier this year calling for consent education to be taught earlier in schools.
The petition attracted tens of thousands of signatures as well as testimonies by young women across Sydney detailing their experiences with sexual assault.
In another incident, a 2013 graduate from an all-girls, non-Jewish private school accused her then-boyfriend – who reportedly attended Moriah – of touching her body without asking her.
Rabbi Smukler told The AJN at the time the school condemns non-consensual sexual behaviour “in the strongest possible terms”, and stressed that “consent is something that we discuss openly and regularly at Moriah”.
Speaking to The AJN this week, Contos said Moriah was a “great example of how religious values can be adopted to account for modern trends”.
“Rabbi Smukler showed me that ‘religious ethos’ is not a valid excuse for not teaching the youth of Australia about consent education and rape culture,” she said.
“Rabbi Smukler’s open mind and care for his students and community showed that religious ethos can be adapted to support our youth through current issues.
“I really enjoyed speaking with him and his pastoral care team, I felt the voice of the Australian youth was being heard by them.
“This, and the school’s commitment to adopt regular and consistent programs on consent education was refreshing.”
Stating that the meeting provided a “deeper insight and understanding into consent and empathy education from a young person’s perspective”, Rabbi Smukler told The AJN, “What was mutually enlightening, in chatting with Chanel, was that Moriah, a religious-based school, identified religion is not an excuse to hide behind, to not engage in consent education, but rather it is an impetus and imperative to teach consent, empathy and respect in all relationships.
“Chanel expressed that she hopes Moriah’s example becomes a voice of reason and influence for other religious-based educational institutions to engage appropriately in consent education.”
Sign the petition: teachusconsent.com.