A Canadian teacher with a career spanning more than 20 years has been placed on paid leave after her comments during a virtual presentation to the local school board on age-appropriate books in the district's libraries were deemed "transphobic."
The National Post reports Carolyn Burjoski was giving a presentation to the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) in Ontario, about books and other publications that were inappropriate for the ages of kindergarten to the 6th grade in school libraries. She argued some of the books made it seem too simple and "cool" to medically transition to another gender before board chairman Scott Piatkowski stopped her presentation.
Piatkowski said her comments on transgender issues violated the province's Human Rights Code, and then the board voted 5-4 board she could not continue. She was then removed from the meeting, according to the outlet.
Canadian law bars discrimination based on gender identity concerning housing, employment, and providing other services.
CTV News reports during her presentation, Burjoski began reading from "Rick" a book by Alex Gina. In the book's second chapter, the character named Rick, questions his sexuality and later identifies as asexual.
"While reading this book I was thinking: 'Maybe Rick doesn't have sexual feelings yet because he is a child,'" she told board members. "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."
The teacher also informed the board "some of the books make it seem simple, even cool, to take puberty blockers and opposite-sex hormones."
Piatkowski told CTV News he stands by his decision of ending Burjoski's presentation and removing her from the meeting, calling her comments "transphobic."
"I stand by it," he said. "It's extremely important that we uphold the Human Rights Code. There were comments that were frankly transphobic."
The video of the live stream of the school board meeting has been removed from YouTube. In a statement, Eusis Dougan-MacKenzie, the interim chief communications officer for the WRDSB, said: "The recording of the live stream was not officially posted due to concerns over a Human Rights Code violation. We are also sensitive to the many students, staff, and members of the wider community who were impacted by comments made during the meeting."
Burjoski told The Post she was "flabbergasted" by Piatkowski's actions and his remarks afterward.
"I am not a transphobic person. It's crazy that just because you ask a question, the first thing people do is call you that," she said. "We do need to have a conversation about the intersection of biology and gender. We're not having those conversations in our culture because look what happened to me."
The day after the meeting Burjoski was notified by the district's Human Resources department to stay home. She was also told there would be an investigation into her comments.
She told The Post the order to stay away from school was likely meant to make an example of her: "The message is clear: no dissent is allowed."
She posted a video to social media on Jan. 21, giving her response.
My response to the events that transpired this week regarding my presentation to the school board. You can read more about the story here:https://t.co/VdLwhejXGZ#WRDSB #wrdsbmtg pic.twitter.com/Y5cX3684zX
— Carolyn Burjoski (@carolynburjoski) January 21, 2022
"The following morning H.R. informed me that I was immediately assigned to home, pending a formal investigation and banned from contacting my colleagues and students. This was particularly upsetting to me because I love my students, and I have not seen them since December," she said in the little more than two-minute video.
"I have been silenced and punished," Burjoski said. "Meanwhile, board members have taken to radio, television, social media to grossly misrepresent my remarks."
"I feel bullied, slandered, and abused," she said. "The school board has removed the video of the meeting from their YouTube channel, so people are not able to hear what I actually said."
"Most of the video is me reading excerpts from two books available to any young child who is able to read," the teacher explained. "My few comments express concerns about age-inappropriate sexual content. I did not and do not question the rights of trans persons to exist in any way. I fully support the human rights of transgender people."
"This isn't just about me," Burjoski warned. "This is about all of us. Cancel culture needs to stop! We need to recover our ability to listen to each other and to speak to one another with open minds. Respectful dialogue is the core of democracy."
A long-time school district trustee blasted the board's decision and said he's never seen a delegation silenced in that way before.
"It's censoring presentations that the chair doesn't agree with," board member Mike Ramsay, who has served as chair three times, told The Post. "As decision-makers, we have to make informed decisions... If we're going to just take one point of view and say that's sufficient, that's wrong on so many fronts."
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