WRDSB teacher removed from virtual board meeting after comments deemed transphobic by chair

A Waterloo Region District School Board teacher was removed from Monday night’s board meeting after expressing her own concerns that some resources in elementary school libraries are inappropriate for young children.

Carolyn Burjoski made her statements as a delegation, and said she has been an English teacher to new Canadians at the WRDSB for more than 20 years.

Minutes into her presentation, Burjoski used the book “Rick” by Alex Gina as an example.

Burjoski read from the book’s second chapter where the character Rick questions his sexuality for not thinking about naked girls, is invited to the school’s rainbow club, and ends up declaring an asexual identity.

“While reading this book I was thinking ‘maybe Rick doesn’t have sexual feels yet because he is a child,” said Burjoski. “It concerns me that it leaves young boys wondering if there is something wrong with them if they aren’t thinking about naked girls all the time. What message does this send to girls in Grade 3 or 4? They are children. Let them grow up in their own time and stop pressuring them to be sexual so soon.”

Burjoski went on to say “in fact some of the of the books make it seem simple, even cool, to take puberty blockers and opposite sex hormones.”

That’s when the board meeting’s chair Scott Piatkowski interjected and said he was concerned Burjoski’s content was problematic.

“I would caution you to make sure that you are not saying anything that would violate the Human Rights Code,” said Piatkowski during the meeting.

Burjoski was allowed to continue and spoke about another book “The Other Boy” by MG Hennessy, which discusses the sexual transition of a teen named Shane who was born female and now identifies as a boy.

Burjoski called the book misleading as “it does not take into account how Shane may feel later in life about being infertile. This book makes very serious interventions seem like an easy cure for emotional and social distress.”

That’s when Piatkowski intervened and said “Ontario Human Rights Code includes gender identity as a grounds for discrimination and I’m concerned your comments violate that so I’m ending your presentation.”

A couple of school board trustees defended Burjoski.

“I think that’s a stretch to say violation of human rights code,” said trustee Mike Ramsay. “I think the speaker should be allowed to continue.”

Ramsay’s comment was seconded by trustee Cindy Watson, but was ultimately defeated by a five to four vote.

In an interview with CTV News on Tuesday, Piatkowski said the decision was made based on the board’s own human rights bylaw and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Piatkowski said it's the first time he's seen someone invoke it in his term with the board.

“I stand by it. It’s extremely important that we uphold the Human Rights Code," he said. “There were comments that were frankly transphobic."

"I've never seen that in the history of the board, and I've been on the board for 20 years," Ramsay said.

WRDSB officials typically post their board meetings on YouTube.

“The recording of the livestream was not officially posted due to concerns over a Human Rights Code violation,” said Eusis Dougan-MacKenzie, the interim chief communications officer at the WRDSB in a statement. “We are also sensitive to the many students, staff and members of the wider community who were impacted by comments made during the meeting.”

CTV News reached out to the teacher and the local union representing her. They both said they were unavailable to comment.