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School board responds to 'disturbing' accusations made by protesters

'The school board and the college of teachers take these accusations very seriously,' said former WRDSB chair following last week's rally in Kitchener
Protesters against the WRDSB hold signs telling the school board to stop grooming children and to stop child transitions during the '1 Million March 4 Children' protest last week in Kitchener.

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) has responded after a protest saw hundreds of people file into Kitchener Civic Square and Victoria Park last week claiming teachers have been "indoctrinating" and "grooming" their children. 

In what will likely be raised in discussions among trustees at tonight's meeting, protesters were seen holding up signs saying the WRDSB needs to stop child transition, "education, not indoctrination" and asking the board to remove LGBTQ+ language from the curriculum. 

"The school board and the college of teachers take these accusations very seriously," said Scott Piatkowski, WRDSB trustee and former chair. 

On multiple occasions the school board has assured parents their children are only being taught what is in the Ontario government's curriculum

"We very clearly set out our curriculum, provided links to the curriculum that people could click and read supporting legislation and direction from the ministry, to the Human Rights Code and set out our responsibilities, and how we fulfill that responsibility," added Piatkowski.

He said the school board was hoping that all trustees would have followed suit and shared the information with parents, but there were a few who did not agree with the messaging. 

WRDSB trustees for Cambridge, Cindy Watson, Bill Cody and Kitchener's Mike Ramsey came out in support of 1 Million March 4 Children protesters last week, saying that everyone has their right to a peaceful protest. 

"The protest is not about hate, it’s about parents wanting to know what’s being taught in the classroom," said Watson in an email to CambridgeToday. 

As a school board trustee who has direct knowledge about what is in the Ontario curriculum and what is being taught in classrooms, Watson did not respond to questions asking if she and others believe teachers are going off script in a way that would prompt accusations of grooming in the WRDSB. 

"Parents are concerned about age appropriateness. Many parents feel that sexual health teaching has become the central focus of their child’s education and parents have been excluded," added Watson. 

Despite advocating for these groups, Watson was unable to provide any evidence that she has collected or has been provided by parents that sexual health teaching has become a central focus in any way taking away from the traditional subjects of math, science and English. 

Piatkowski said this isn't the first time people have made accusations not based on fact and without proof.

He recalls members of the community coming to the meetings and accusing them of grooming and facilitating child abuse, simply because certain books were available through an online library not intended for use by children. 

"We've said to them, if they have evidence that anyone is abusing a child that they have a duty to report that to the appropriate authorities with evidence. We haven't seen evidence from those individuals, but they continue to make the accusations and it's quite disturbing," added Piatkowski.

A statement sent to CambridgeToday by the school board said they do not teach children what to believe; however, they do teach that there are many ways that people define and express their identities.

"All are worthy of respect. 2SLGBTQIA+ students and families deserve to be supported, feel safe, included and respected in their learning environments. This is a part of WRDSB’s commitment to creating a system where everyone belongs and where their human rights are upheld," reads the statement. 

Piatkowski is disappointed that some of his fellow trustees are not clearing the air around these issues and are leaving the door open to misinformation and false accusations directed at teachers and staff. 

"Our leadership has provided clear and full answers to any questions about the work that we're doing and it's grounded in the curriculum, in legislation, and the Human Rights Code," he added. "I think that it's the role of trustees to provide correct factual information to be brought to people who continue to question that."

Tonight's meeting begins at 7 p.m. 

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Joe McGinty

About the Author: Joe McGinty

Joe McGinty is a multimedia journalist who covers local news in the Cambridge area. He is a graduate of Conestoga College and began his career as a freelance journalist at CambridgeToday before joining full time.
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