Knox Grammar students were caught sending offensive messages. Activists say it’s not an isolated issue

Revelations of offensive messages shared between past and current students of an elite Sydney private school demonstrate an urgent need to quash “deeply distressing” behaviour, activists say.
In a letter to parents, Knox Grammar headmaster Scott James said boys had posted and engaged in offensive commentary that was “contrary to the values and culture” of the school, and they were facing a range of consequences based on the extent of their participation.
According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, messages were exchanged on a Discord Group called “Gang Gang” and featured racist, misogynistic and homophobic content, along with jokes about abortion and paedophilia, with some of the content now being examined by police.

Activists say this is far from an isolated issue.

Sexual consent advocate Chanel Contos believes type of behaviour seen among some past and former student’s of Sydney’s Knox Grammar School happens “absolutely everywhere”. Source: Instagram

Chanel Contos is the founder of the Teach Us Consent movement and director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Sex and Gender Equality,

She believes this type of behaviour happens “absolutely everywhere”.
“I go into schools a lot, I speak to young girls and young boys as well, and this sort of behaviour is constantly reported back to me as something that happens a lot in these early teen years,” she told SBS News

“Often these sorts of schooling institutions create a situation wherein entitlement is basically at its peak; these young privileged teenage boys, part of their schooling inherently makes them apathetic towards marginalised groups.”

Ms Contos said there are likely many similar group chats happening all around the country, with the issue not limited to expensive private schools.
She believes these conversations are symptomatic of toxic masculinity and represent a need for improved education and socialisation.
“It would be ignorant for us to think that the problem is isolated to that one group chat on that one app with that one school,” she said.

“I’m sure that millions of Australians right now, especially Australian men, are reflecting on things that they said in their youth and cringing on them and regretting it. And the point is that until we get to a stage where we’re able to educate ourselves on these things, these behaviours keep happening, so we need to intervene earlier.”

‘We’re catching this behaviour too late’

Saxon Mullins, director of advocacy at Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy and sexual assault survivor, said she felt more “resigned” than shocked when she saw the type of messages being sent.
She said schools need to be “hyper-aware” of the culture they are fostering.
“We see this kind of culture, this kind of attitude in a lot of schools, especially private, single-sex schools, and we see it time and time again,” she told SBS News.

“We have to think about … where have those children learnt those ideas, where have they been cultivated, where have they been allowed to grow? And that is their schooling system.”

A woman leaning against a wall outside.

Saxon Mullins said schools need to be “hyper-aware” of the culture they are fostering. Source: Supplied

Renee Carr, Executive Director of gender equity campaigning organisation Fair Agenda, said more work needs to be done across the education system.

“It’s deeply distressing to see this behaviour from young men,” she said.

“We should be raising young people to fundamentally believe and act in ways that are respectful towards each other. Respectful relationships education is a critical part of that; as is intervening with unacceptable behaviour like this.”

Ms Mullins agreed, saying these incidents reinforce the need for comprehensive sex and relationships education.
“Realistically, we’re catching it too late – what we need is comprehensive relationship and sexuality education, that is the bare minimum of what we need starting very, very young with age-appropriate education,” she said.
“How many moments of reckoning does Australia need before we realize that we need to start sooner? We need to educate wider and we need to sustain this because this is just going to keep happening and it has kept happening.”

SBS News has approached Knox Grammar for comment.

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