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Local teacher removed from board meeting states her case on social media

Carolyn Burjoski says she has been assigned to home duty after being accused of using transphobic language in her delegation this week
Carolyn Burjorski Twitter page

A local teacher is responding on social media after being removed from a Waterloo Region District School Board meeting Monday after accusations of using transphobic language in her presentation. 

Teacher Carolyn Burjoski was a delegation to the board and had been presenting her concerns that some books available in school libraries are inappropriate for children. 

Burjoski said in the nearly two-minute video on her Twitter page, that she was reading excerpts from children's books and commenting on their age appropriateness when she was halted shortly after she began her presentation and was later ejected from the meeting. 

"The following morning, HR informed me that I was immediately assigned to home, pending a formal investigation and banned from contacting my colleagues and students," she said. "This was particularly upsetting to me because I love my students and I have not seen them since December. When my students excitedly returned to school on Tuesday - the first day of in-class learning after yet another lockdown - their teacher was not there, and they did not know why."

Burjoski also gave an interview to the National Post newspaper.

“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 told the National Post.

Burjoski said she has been 'silenced' and 'punished' after her presentation to the board. 

"Meanwhile, board members have taken to radio, television, social media to grossly misrepresent my remarks. I feel bullied, slandered and abused. 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." 

Burjoski said that the majority of her remarks was her reading excerpts from two books that are available to any young child who is able to read the few comments that she expressed concerns with 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. I have promoted human rights throughout my entire life, and my career has been about valuing every face I look into. This isn't just about me. It's about all of us. Cancel culture needs to stop. We need to recover our ability to listen to each other and to speak with one another with open minds. Respectful dialogue is the core of democracy."

Waterloo Region District School Board Chair Scott Piatkowski said earlier this week that he stands behind the decision to remove Burjoski from the meeting. 

"It was unfortunate that it was necessary, but it was necessary," he said, "I'm hearing from school board chairs and other boards that they would not have allowed that either. I'm hearing from past chairs of this board," he added. 

The school board issued a statement of its own Thursday, expressing "deep regret for any harm caused to the transgender community."

"As a school board, we are guided by the Ontario Human Rights Code and committed to doing our best so that all students are affirmed in their identity and see themselves reflected in their learning environment," the board said. "The Board is committed to upholding the values and principles set out in Board’s Equity and Inclusion Policy 1008 and the Board’s Human Rights Policy 1017. The Board is committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment free from inequity, discrimination and harassment."

"The video of the meeting was not posted as the Board was concerned about potential violations to the Code and to the harm that could affect our students, staff and communities in Waterloo Region."