A top private boarding school informed parents last week that many of its students had become involved in organised, illicit brawls.
A top private boarding school informed parents last week that many of its students had become involved in organised, illicit brawls.

Private school ‘fight club’ ritual knocked out

An elite private school "fight club" has been shut down after a student broke his hand in the savage start-of-year ritual.

Geelong Grammar School sent a letter to parents this week revealing "many" students in the Cuthbertson boys' boarding house had been drawn into the organised, illicit fights.

Arguably Australia's most prestigious school, Geelong Grammar is also the most expensive with year 12 tuition and boarding fees for international students nearly $83,000.

"You may be aware that some of the boys have unfortunately involved themselves in organising or participating in boxing bouts within the boarding house, after lights out. There were many students involved and we have established the understanding that no one student is more responsible than any other," the February 12 letter from school leaders Steven Church, Graham Hislop and Andrew Borthwick states.

After speaking with the boys, it was clear they thought the night fights were "expected", the letter goes on to say.

"Whilst our understanding from the many boys we have spoken with, is these bouts were not intended to cause harm and occurred out of an understanding this was expected or normalised behaviour, it is not something we condone or want within any aspect of our school environment," the school leaders wrote.

‘Many’ boys in the Cutherbertson boarding house have been involved in organised fights. Picture: Mark Wilson
‘Many’ boys in the Cutherbertson boarding house have been involved in organised fights. Picture: Mark Wilson

The Sunday Herald Sun has been told the boarding house night fights were a longstanding tradition and happened at the start of every school year.

Sources said pillows and mattresses were placed on the floors at night time to create a form of boxing ring, where the boys would slug it out.

While injuries were usually minimal, this year a senior student broke his hand and had to be taken to hospital, the sources said.

According to the school letter, an intensive care trauma specialist has been asked to come and speak to the boys about the dangers of head and face injuries.

And the school says it is working to change the boarding house culture, as fighting does not fit with "the character of courage and compassion" that the school tries to instil in its students.

"If there has previously been any lack of clarity about the appropriateness of such activities, we wish now to very clearly articulate our priority is always child safety. Actions which contravene this priority will not be tolerated," the letter said.

 

The fight club revelations come after a drug scandal in the Geelong Grammar School boarding dorms in September last year. Picture: Mark Wilson
The fight club revelations come after a drug scandal in the Geelong Grammar School boarding dorms in September last year. Picture: Mark Wilson

"We believe the boys in Cuthbertson House are sensational young men and it is our responsibility to support their development, individually and collectively, to achieve great success … we will work with the staff and students … to shape a culture which is inclusive and supportive and which responds in a timely and proactive manner to address and stamp out anti-social behaviour."

Principal Rebecca Cody told the Sunday Herald Sun the school's approach was motivated by an unwavering commitment to child safety.

"In a contemporary context, this type of behaviour will not be tolerated within any aspect of our school environment, where everyone can expect to feel and be safe. We are utilising this opportunity to educate our students about responsibility and risk; to assist our learners to make informed choices that prioritise safety," she said.

The fight club revelations come after a drug scandal in the Geelong Grammar School boarding dorms in September last year, where drugs were found hidden in rooms during raids.

Geelong Grammar School is predominantly a boarding school with 80 per cent of its senior school students boarders.

mandy.squires@news.com.au



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