Furious parents have hit out at a school where they say their sons were forced to stand up at an assembly and apologise on behalf of their gender.

Parents of male students at a school in Victoria’s southwest are furious after their sons were forced to stand up at an assembly and apologise to their female classmates.

Brauer College, in Warrnambool, held an assembly on Wednesday where boys were told to stand in solidarity for female students who had experienced sexual harassment.

Outraged parents say their sons were told to apologise to the girls for offensive behaviour on behalf of their gender.

The move comes after a viral petition exposed thousands of stories of sexual assault from students and former students around Australia, throwing the education sector into crisis.

A Snapchat post, believed to be by a male student at the school, took aim at the assembly saying: “Today at Brauer they made every guy stand up and apologise to every girl for rape, sexual assault and so on.

“Guys are always the ‘bad guys’ in everything these days. I’m not saying girls do not go through sh*t. Guys go through as much sh*t as girls do.”

Parent Danielle Shephard said her 12-year-old son, who is in Year 7 at the school, was left feeling confused following the exercise.

“Wow just wow … this is actually disgusting Brauer College … not at all impressed that you made my son apologise for something he’s never done nor considered doing,” she wrote on social media.

Other parents applauded the school’s actions on social media, saying they supported school leaders for “bringing the issue to light”.

“I’m glad these issues are being discussed at school and all schools should do the same,” one parent said.

Another parent wrote: “There’s always more than one side to a story. This is just one student’s take on what happened.”

However, the school’s principal Jane Boyle has apologised – saying that asking male students to stand “as a symbolic gesture of apology for the behaviours of their gender” in an assembly was inappropriate.

“Schools play an important role in the promotion of safety and respect of all students, and discussions in schools around respect towards women and girls are a key part of this work,” she said in a statement.

“This week, at a whole school assembly, Brauer College discussed the topic of respect for women 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.”

She said the school intended to contact parents to “explain the reasons behind the assembly” on Thursday “to ensure that any student who requires support is aware that it is available”.

Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino revealed on Sunday that teaching consent would be compulsory in all government schools from next month under an expansion of the Respectful Relationship program.

The initiative previously did not explicitly direct schools to teach consent and instead focused on relationships, sexuality and safety.

From term two, the new directive will compel state schools to teach the government’s Respectful Relationships training on free agreements.

“(Respectful Relationships) is proven to make a real difference and is a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence,” the education minister said in a statement on Sunday.

“It is a program that should be rolled out nationwide. But we have to listen to students, who say they want and need a greater focus on this issue in the classroom.

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“It is why we will mandate the teaching of consent in all government schools in an age-appropriate way.”

It means that teachers will be given access to extra resources, guidance and professional development to help ready them to appropriately teach the sensitive topic.

Meanwhile, in NSW, the state’s Department of Education and heads of the independent and Catholic schools ­associations have put forward a potentially game-changing draft bill to change the focus of sex education lessons.

It has not been signed off yet, but it states that a “student voice” and “experience” is “critical in strengthening healthy and ­respectful relationships”.

“We commit to identifying and taking concrete actions that will strengthen children and young people’s ability to form healthy relationships and prevent harmful situations, both at school and outside the school gates,” the draft, which has been seen by The Australian, says.

“All children and young people have a right to feel safe and ­respected at school and in the community. We will listen to their views about harmful sexual behaviours and how best to prevent them, and find ways to increase the voice of our students.”

The move – billed a “first step” to ­addressing concerns of female students – was spawned out of one of the recommendations from a high-level crisis meeting between school leaders and NSW Police in early March.

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