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Teacher removed from school board meeting for comments about book with transgender content

At a school board meeting Monday night, as part of a review of books in its libraries that deal with racism and inequity, a local teacher was removed from the meeting
Waterloo Region District School Board
CityNews file photo

Last year, the Waterloo Region District School Board announced it would begin a multi-year project to review texts that may be ‘harmful’ to staff and students.

At a school board meeting Monday night, as part of a review of books in it's libraries that deal with racism and inequity, a local teacher was removed from the meeting.

Carolyn Burjoski, a Waterloo Region District School Board teacher for over 20 years, spoke to trustees about removing books that may not be appropriate for children.

Burjoski cited a book, The Other Boy by MG Hennessey, about the medical transition of a female who now identifies as a boy.

A character named Shane is told by a doctor that taking puberty blockers and starting testosterone will make him infertile in the future. Shane responds with "it's cool."

“This is a very typical adolescent response,” Burjoski said.

"The book is misleading because it does not take into account how Shane might feel later in life about being infertile. This book makes very serious medical interventions seem like an easy cure for emotional and social distress," Burjoski said.

Burjoski was interrupted by school board chair Scott Piatkowski, who said that he was concerned that her delegation may be problematic.

“I would caution you to make sure that you're not saying anything that would violate the human rights code,” Piatkowski said.

Piatkowski said Burjoski’s comments might violate the province's protections for gender expression and gender identity.

"I did get the impression that the teacher was speaking about age appropriateness," said trustee Cindy Watson, who was in favour of allowing Burjoski to continue speaking.

The majority of the school board voted to remove Burjoski from the meeting.

Three motions were presented by Watson requesting that a consultation process include the broader school community, that a written report be presented about the review process, and that the board develop a library review policy.

These motions were rejected. 

“What I had hoped was that these motions would bring understanding and open communication to allow parents to have their say. Many parents do not sit on a committee. Parents and community members are concerned about books disappearing from classrooms.” Watson said.

“Our board policy is to make sure that parents, stakeholders and community members can take part in meaningful decision making.”

As of Tuesday evening the board still had yet to post the video of Monday's meeting, something that is traditionally done the next morning.

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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