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An Examination of Antisemitism in Schools

February 27, 2024

This report centers on a recent survey, designed by Blueprint Institute and conducted by YouGov, aimed at measuring the prevalence and types of antisemitism manifesting within Australian public schools. It is important to note that a rise in antisemitism— or indeed the vilification or dehumanisation of any minority group—have been shown to be leading indicators of democratic backsliding, and deteriorating levels of social cohesion. These are issues of critical importance to all Australians, regardless of race, background, or religion. We have chosen to focus our analysis on public schools for pragmatic reasons, however there is evidence to suggest that unacceptably high levels of antisemitism also exist within independent

The design of this paper and poll was finalised prior to the Hamas attacks of October 7th, however fieldwork for the poll itself was conducted throughout November 2023, during the aftermath of the attack, and the ongoing substantial loss of life in the Middle East.

Our poll, consisting of a nationally representative sample of 510 employees in the Australian public school workforce, has uncovered widespread reports  antisemitism in Australian primary and secondary schools. 61 of 510—or 12%—of educators said that they had witnessed, but had not been a direct victim of antisemitism. 103 respondents—or 20%—reported they had been informed by others of antisemitic incidents. One percent (five educators) indicated that they had been a direct victim of antisemitism. Our survey also asked about the frequency of antisemitic incidents, and our results suggest an average of approximately 75,000 incidents per year in government schools across the country.

Our research indicates that there are a multitude of factors which may be influencing the levels of antisemitism in public schools, including— conflating the political with the personal, apathy towards antisemitism amongst some members of the teaching workforce, cultural factors, poor pedagogical approaches to teaching the Holocaust, and the influence of social media in spreading and normalising antisemitic content.

Designing an effective set of interventions that reduces antisemitic incidents in public schools necessitates state and territory government action in schools and federal government action on social media. We recommend,

1. State education departments and schools analyse existing data—including incident reports and larger scale student surveys than the one we have been able to undertake—to identify geographic hotspots—areas with high rates of reported antisemitic behaviour. The results of this analysis will then allow the relevant state body to stage its response, focusing on the most urgent needs, and addressing the potentially idiosyncratic drivers behind local antisemitic incidents.

2. Once an understanding of the most urgent needs and their contributing factors has been developed, we recommend the deployment of evidence-based interventions designed to reduce antisemitism—examples of which include updates to existing anti- racism frameworks, specialised professional development courses to identify and address contemporary manifestations of antisemitism, reforms to improve Holocaust  education and pedagogy and targeted racial and religious anti-bullying campaigns. While senior leaders must ultimately be held accountable for reducing antisemitism in schools, we advocate for a bottom-up approach that empowers individual schools and the communities they serve to decide which interventions best suit their unique

3. The federal government should prioritise the continued tracking and prevention of inflammatory international and domestic disinformation campaigns, particularly given that recent technological advances continue to lower the cost of creating and disseminating convincing disinformation at scale.

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