Brauer College, a secondary school in Australia, held an assembly on Wednesday forcing male students to apologize to female students for "rapes committed by their gender." Parents were infuriated by the assembly.
Mother of to a son in Year 7, approximately 12 years old, reported that her son was confused and didn't understand why he was apologizing to his classmates for rape and sexual assault. The apology was intended to be symbolic, but that didn't make it any easier for boys to understand why they were apologizing for things they hadn't done, according to the Daily Mail.
The Year 7 student told his mother that boys were told to stand up and say sorry that women are raped and sexually assaulted by their gender.
"He said that he was made to stand up and basically apologize... it wasn't explained properly to the male students what they were doing or why they were doing it," Danielle Shephard, the boys mother told 7News.
"They really should have made more of an effort to notify the parents," Shephard continued.
Another parent of a male student complained about the assembly on a Facebook post and said "Wow just wow... this is actually disgusting Brauer College... not at all impressed that you made my son apologize for something he's never done nor considered doing."
"Today at Brauer they made every guy stand up and apologize to every girl for rape, sexual assault," a male student who participated in the forced apology said on Snapchat. "Guys go through as much sh*t as girls do."
The Principal of Brauer College Jane Boyle defended the assembly although acknowledging it was "inappropriate."
"The assembly included the screening of a video message by Brisbane Boys' College Captain Mason Black about being proactive in stopping incidents of sexual assault and harassment," said Boyle in a statement.
"In retrospect, while well-intended, we recognize that this part of the assembly was inappropriate," Boyle acknowledged.
Not every parent was offended by the assembly.
One parent wrote on Facebook, "My son explained they stood not to apologize, but to stand in support and solidarity. You'll find all schools will be teaching consent over the next year - Braeur won't be the only one."
Another mother said her son told her the forced apology was meant to "raise awareness." Concerns were raised at a Melbourne school, Wesley College, where people were apparently horrified that male students had taken notice of the appearance of female students and ranked them "based on their looks."
This assembly comes as the Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino moved to make teaching consent required in all government schools, updating a previous initiative that didn't directly teach consent but focused on relationships, sexuality and safety.
His action was in the wake of former student at Kambala School Chanel Contos, 22, launched a petition in February to demand that Australian schools teach consent to students. She wanted this to be part of the general sex ed curriculum.
At Brisbane Boys' College, student Mason Black, who was featured in the controversial video shown at Bauer, said that as regards the charges os sexual assault at that school, he "feels sick," and that the "narrative needs to change."
For Black, this was personal, he said, because his own mother was subjected to sexual assault when she was a child of 10. Brisbane was named by female students who made claims of sexual assault, harassment, or rape.
"It makes me feel sick and it makes me feel embarrassed that our school is featured in the testimonies of young women who are victims of sexual assault," Black said.
The directive being pushed by the Victorian government will teach a government curriculum on "Respectful Relationships" program, and Merlino said that states should make sure that consent was taught properly in schools.
The education minister touted the program in a statement, saying that "Respectful Relationships is proven to make a real difference and is a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence."
He went on to say that this program "should be rolled out nationwide." He believes this is an initiative the students want, saying "we have to listen to students, who say they want and need a greater focus on this issue in the classroom."
While he said the "teaching of consent" would be mandated in all government schools, he said it would be done "in an age-appropriate way."
Brauer issued the following statement in response to the controversy:
"Schools play an important role in the promotion of safety and respect of all students, and discussions in schools around respect towards girls and women are a key part of this vital work. This week, at a whole school assembly, Brauer College discussed the topic of respect for woman and the importance of bystander behaviour and speaking up to report incidents of inappropriate behaviour.
"The assembly included the screening of a video message by Brisbane Boys' College Captain Mason Black about being proactive in stopping incidents of sexual assault and harassment. As part of this discussion boys were asked to stand as a symbolic gesture of apology for the behaviours of their gender that have hurt or offended girls and women. In retrospect, while well-intended, we recognise that this part of the assembly was inappropriate."