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Former teacher launches another legal move over removal from WRDSB meeting

A former teacher has announced additional legal action against the Waterloo Region District School Board after her presentation was halted during a trustee meeting back in January.

Carolyn Burjoski, who is now retired, is asking for a judicial review into the board's decision to remove her from the meeting, separate from a $1.75 million lawsuit she filed back in May.

On January 17, Burjoski raised concerns about books available in elementary school libraries which she felt discussed sexuality in a way that was not age appropriate. She cited two books, one which discussed asexuality and another about a transgender teenager.

Burjoski told trustees at the meeting that "some of the books make it seem simple, even cool, to take puberty blockers and opposite sex hormones."

Board Chair Scott Piatkowski then stopped her mid-presentation, citing concern that her comments violated the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Burjoski was removed from the meeting and a video recording was taken off of social media.

She launched a $1.75 million lawsuit in May against the Waterloo Region District School Board and Piatkowski for defamation, libel and slander. The documents allege the statements made by the board and Piatkowski during and after the meeting were false and damaging to Burjoski's reputation. She also claims they caused her considerable embarrassment, distress, anxiety and harm, as well as wrongfully labelling her as transphobic and a bigot.

The former teacher is now asking the court to overturn the board's decision to remove her from the meeting. She also wants to continue her presentation to WRDSB trustees.

Burjoski said her freedom of expression was violated and she's concerned that school boards are abusing their power to silence and shame people who "challenge their policies and ideology."

"School boardsare elected bodies that we all have a right to express our concerns to," said Rob Kittredge, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which is representing Burjoski in the judicial review.

He doesn’t believes the former teacher violated the Human Rights Code.

"Carolyn was raising eminently reasonable concerns and in a very positive and concerned and non-human-rights-code-violating sort of way."

"I think that the human rights code in this case was referred to as a smoke screen in order to prevent someone with views that certain members of the board may disagree with from speaking," Kittredge added. "It was an attempt to stifle speech they didn’t want to hear."

In this case, he said, Burjoskiis not asking for damages.

"What we're really trying to do here is protect the charter rights of Canadians to express themselves at school boards across the country," Kittredge explained. "We'd like to set a precedent that makes it clear that this was unacceptable and will be unacceptable to other boards in the future."

A court date has yet to be scheduled.

Since leaving the school board, Burjoski has started a website titled "Cancelled Teacher" and has launched a GoFundMe page for her legal fund. As of Monday she's raised over $25,000 of her $100,000 goal. In a video posted to her Twitter account, Burjoski said the lawyers behind her latest legal action were working pro bono. The money raised, she explained, will be used for her defamation lawsuit.

The Waterloo Region District School Board said it cannot comment on ongoing legal issues.

CTV News also reached out to Piatkowski who declined to be interviewed on the matter. Top Stories

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