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Waterloo Region District School Board, chair, claim lawsuit attempting to silence them

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The Waterloo Region District School Board and Chair Scott Piatowski believe a former teacher is trying to use a $1.75 million defamation lawsuit to silence them.

In a statement of defence, the board and the chair claim the suit filed by Carolyn Burjoski was brought forward to “silence the defendants and chill the expression of others” supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community.

The lawsuit was filed after Piatowski stopped Burjoski mid-delegation during the Jan. 17 school board meeting. At the time, she was speaking about the content of some books found in elementary school libraries, and criticizing the age-appropriateness of some of the books regarding sexuality and transgender issues.

The chair stopped her delegation, claiming he was concerned that she was violating the Ontario Human Rights Code, and Burjoski was removed from the virtual meeting. A video recording of that meeting was taken off social media.

Burjoski claims the actions of the board and the chair on that day, and on the days that followed, caused her considerable embarrassment, distress, anxiety, and harm and that they wrongfully labelled her as transphobic and as a bigot.

The board’s statement of defence denies the allegations, instead claiming any harm done to Burjoski’s reputation “is the result of the plaintiff’s own conduct.”

The statement of defence also notes the chair has a duty to protect LGBTQ2S+ students, staff, and families from discrimination and bullying as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity and adds they did not intend to inflict emotional hardship on Burjoski.

The document also calls the damages “excessive and remote” and requests the lawsuit be dismissed with costs.

Burjoski responded to the statement of defence via a video posted to social media.

“What I did not expect is that in their defence this board who cut off my presentation and ejected me from the trustees’ meeting, forbade me from speaking to my students and colleagues, and publically maligned my reasonable comments as transphobic hate speech is now pleading before the court that I am trying to suppress their free expression by suing them. The irony is thick,” she says.

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