Victoria’s largest Jewish school will become the first in the state to employ armed guards, in a significant boost to its security.
From this week, guards with guns will be stationed at Mount Scopus Memorial College’s three Melbourne campuses.
Principal Rabbi James Kennard said the decision to beef up security had not been triggered by a specific threat to the college.
“This enhancement of the guards’ equipment reflects the heightened security levels now in place across Australia and worldwide, and is not in response to any particular threat to the College,” he said in a statement.
He said armed guards “best met” the school’s security needs.
“Our foremost priority remains the safety of our students and staff.”
Armed guards have had a presence at Jewish schools and institutions in Sydney for more than 20 years.
But until now, the practice has been absent from Jewish schools in Victoria.
“Security at Mount Scopus Memorial College is under constant review, and we aim to follow best practice at all times,” Rabbi Kennard said.
The co-ed school, which runs from kindergarten to Year 12 and accommodates 1530 students, consulted with Victoria Police before making the decision.
It is expected that other Jewish schools in Melbourne will seriously consider employing armed guards following Mount Scopus’ move.
Jewish schools have been vigilant for some time amid concerns about a resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world.
Many Jewish schools in Melbourne ramped up their security in 2012 following an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, that killed four people.
An incident on a Sydney bus last August, where five teenagers racially taunted and made physical threats to young Jewish students, also caused alarm.
Then there was the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, where four hostages were killed in January by a gunman with ties to those responsible for the Charlie Hebdo terror attack.
And in February a Jewish man was shot dead outside a synagogue in Copenhagen.
The federal government announced in March that 54 schools at risk of attack or violence stemming from racial or religious intolerance would receive a share of $18 million to improve security.
The big winners were 17 Jewish schools and 15 Islamic schools, who were able to access the funds to hire security guards and install CCTV cameras.
Mount Scopus was not able to access these federal funds for their armed guards, which will be supplied by a private firm.