The Waterloo Region District School Board has fired back at a parent and a retired teacher who is suing the school board in an open letter defending their practices and denouncing attacks against them.
The WRDSB released an open letter in response to David Todor, a delegate at a recent school board meeting who accused the board of child abuse and hiding information from parents.
“To be clear, the WRDSB is not facilitating child abuse. The fact that such accusations are happening through public discourse is particularly disheartening and harmful to public education,” wrote the school board in a letter on its website Friday.
The board says it wants to make it clear that just because a parent or caregiver disagrees with the Ministry of Education and Ontario Human Rights Commission's directions does not give them the right to make false claims of pandering or facilitating child abuse or pedophilia.
“This behavior is egregious, although it is a tried and tested method to attack public education in an effort to reverse human rights and equity protections of marginalized groups,” states the response from the WRDSB.
Todor claims that the school board is engaging in several practices that are putting his children at risk and cutting the parents out of the conversation.
He told trustees during the meeting that surveys designed to gather information about multiple aspects of student life, including a section on sexual orientation and sexual identity, were not appropriate for his daughters who are aged seven and nine-years-old.
“What happened is none of your business,” said Todor at the meeting. “Who is interested in knowing and affirming, celebrating my daughter's sexual orientation?”
According to WRDSB they are mandated by the Ministry of Education to conduct these surveys to get a deeper understanding of the cultural, social and demographic makeup of students. They also took a chance to respond directly to Todor, saying there is the option to skip any of the identity-related questions.
“Additionally, each of these surveys were voluntary, and included opt-out options for parents and caregivers who did not want their child to participate,” added the board.
Last year, Carolyn Burjoski, a WRDSB teacher, delegated to school board trustees with concerns about certain books within the library catalog. She was removed from the meeting, later retired and has since launched a defamation lawsuit against the board that is ongoing.
All of the books Burjoski referenced were 2SLGBTQ+ titles.
Todor echoed her concerns and questioned why these explicit books are available to his elementary school children.
In their letter, the school board said these books are not available to check out in any elementary schools and are only available through the school board’s online library. The online library and all the books available have been approved by the Ministry of Education.
WRDSB calls the attacks on these books veiled attempts to target 2SLGBTQIA+ children and their families.
“They align with wider attempts over the past year that target public education and the need to address achievement and well-being gaps that exist among Indigenous, Black, racialized students, those with Special Education identifications and those coming out of poverty,” they added.
“Hate, racism and xenophobia are not “opinions” that should be gathered through consultation. The hallmark of a democratic public education system should be that we serve all students well, especially those with the least power.”
The letter drew criticism from users on social media, including school board trustee Mike Ramsay; calling it an interesting development in the relationship between the school board and their main stakeholders.
Others praised the board, calling the letter a step in the right direction.