'Silenced and punished': WRDSB teacher speaks out about controversial school board meeting
A teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board, who was removed from a virtual board meeting this week after making comments the chair called "transphobic," said the experience left her feeling "bullied, slandered and abused."
On Monday night, Carolyn Burjoski expressed concerns that some of the resources in elementary school libraries were inappropriate for young children.
She began reading from a book by Alex Gina titled "Rick." In the second chapter, the character named Rick questions their sexuality and eventually identifies as asexual.
"While reading this book I was thinking: 'Maybe Rick doesn't have sexual feelings yet because he is a child,'" she explained in the meeting. "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 added that "some of the books make it seem simple, even cool, to take puberty blockers and opposite sex hormones."
Burjoski also brought up another book, titled "The Other Boy" by MG Hennessy, which tells the story of teen named Shane who was born female but now identifies as male. She called the book misleading stating that "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."
Board chair Scott Piatkowski interjected twice during the presentation citing concerns about the Human Rights Code and then ended her presentation.
Burjoski posted a video to Twitter Friday where she addressed the situation.
"I feel bullied, slandered and abused," she said in part. "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 short video is me reading excerpts from two books available to any young child who is able to read. My few comments expressed 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."
"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 for 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."
Several school board trustees felt Burjoski should be allowed to finish her statement at the meeting, but that was ultimately defeated by a vote of 5-4.
"I stand by it," Piatkowski told CTV News on Tuesday. "It's extremely important that we uphold the Human Rights Code. There were comments that were frankly transphobic."
In Burjoski's Twitter video, she said further action was taken by the school board the day after the meeting.
"The following morning H.R. informed me that I was immediately assigned to home, pending a formal investigation and banned from contacted my colleagues and students. This was particularly upsetting to me because I love my students, and I have not seen them since December."
Burjoski stated that she feels "silenced and punished." Meanwhile, she said, "board members have taken to radio, television and social media to grossly misrepresent my remarks."
Burjoski ended the video by thanking those who reached out to her and said she no longer feels alone in her concerns.
-- With reporting by Heather Senoran
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