Christian Brothers’ High School Lewisham says the survey does not reflect the school’s position.
Christian Brothers’ High School Lewisham says the survey does not reflect the school’s position.

‘Non-white’: School sorry for racism quiz

EXCLUSIVE

A Sydney Catholic school has apologised for providing a questionnaire to students that suggested only white people can be racist.

Christian Brothers' High School Lewisham says the survey, which was part of a lesson on "Celebrating Diversity", does not reflect the school's official position and has now been removed from the online teaching portal.

News.com.au understands a number of parents were furious at the quiz, in which students were marked incorrect if they answered "yes" to the question, "Can non-white people be racist?"

"I can confirm that it is not the position of Christian Brothers' High School Lewisham that only white people can be racist and that the snapshot you have provided is not from an authorised school publication," Acting Principal Lucie Farrugia said in an email.

"Our school is firmly founded on four touchstones, one of which is an inclusive community for all."

A survey given to students at Christian Brothers’ High School Lewisham. Picture: Supplied
A survey given to students at Christian Brothers’ High School Lewisham. Picture: Supplied

 

It's understood parents also expressed concern that students at the $7000-a-year inner-west private school were encouraged to kneel to show support for Black Lives Matter last month, at the height of worldwide protests, riots and looting sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Staff and students were invited to join the lunchtime "kneel-in" held on Friday, June 12, which lasted for four minutes and 32 seconds, to represent the 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991.

The claim that only white people can be racist stems from sociologist Patricia Bidol, who in the 1970s proposed that racism requires "prejudice plus institutional power".

That idea has resurfaced amid the global protests - last month, Merriam-Webster dictionary agreed to revise its definition of "racism" after a campaign by 22-year-old university graduate Kennedy Mitchum, who complained that people were using the existing definition to argue with her online.

Students held a Black Lives Matter lunchtime ‘kneel-in’ last month. Picture: CBHS Lewisham/Twitter
Students held a Black Lives Matter lunchtime ‘kneel-in’ last month. Picture: CBHS Lewisham/Twitter

 

It lasted 4:32, representing 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991. Picture: CBHS Lewisham/Twitter
It lasted 4:32, representing 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991. Picture: CBHS Lewisham/Twitter

 

Ms Farrugia said the snapshot of the survey had been taken from "a single lesson" in one Year 8 Personal Development, Health and Physical Education class.

"One component of this unit is working with students to explore how influences (such as) intolerance, prejudice, bias, knowledge, ethics (and) self-esteem affect power in relationships in either a positive and negative way," she said.

"As part of this unit, the class were given a list of questions involving bias and then asked to discuss if the question showed aspects of bias, intolerance or prejudice."

Ms Farrugia said the teacher who sourced the list "unfortunately ... did not realise there was a right or wrong answer as he assumed they were just discussion points and is deeply apologetic that it has been taken in this way".

"We have now removed the link from the Google Classroom as the answers are not aligned to our school's touchstones and values in any way," she said.

Ms Farrugia said the June 12 "kneel-in" was organised by students and approved by the school as it was consistent with its "justice and solidarity" touchstone, which "calls us to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalised".

"All students and staff were invited to join, however, the activity was completely voluntary," she said.

"Our school embraces and celebrates inclusion and diversity in all forms, unfortunately, this has caused a small minority of families concern. In an attempt to reconcile this we held an open forum via Zoom two weeks ago and invited all parents to attend or email in any questions or concerns they had around any aspect of the school and none of the items you have mentioned were raised."

It's not the first time parents at the school have raised concerns about teaching practices.

In 2016, The Daily Mail reported that parents were left fuming after discovering a history and geography teacher at the school had been reading excerpts from the Koran before class, in what the school's principal said was "supposed to be an academic exercise".

"Unfortunately, due to the timing of the exercise being with the normal beginning of (Catholic) lesson prayer, some confusion did exist," Brother Paul Conn told the publication at the time.

frank.chung@news.com.au

 

Originally published as 'Non-white': School sorry for racism quiz


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