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Harm over conversation about age-appropriate books continues: student trustee

A WRDSB Student Trustee suggests the board may be partially to blame for continued harm after scrubbing the conversation from its website
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More than seven months after a controversial conversation about age-appropriate books in public school libraries, a local student trustee is speaking out.

The conversation in question came during a Waterloo Region District School Board meeting on Jan. 17 which included a delegation from a now former teacher.

As part of that meeting, Carolyn Burjoski spoke to trustees about pulling resources in school libraries containing content she felt may not be appropriate for kids, saying "some of the books filing our libraries make it seem simple, or even cool, to take puberty blockers or opposite-sex hormones."

Now, after multiple months and nearly a full summer break, one of the student trustees involved in that conversation suggests the harm caused by those comments and other has been left to fester -- and the board itself may be partially to blame.

"In the immediate aftermath of that meeting, the board saw fit not to post its recording or that of the following meeting which had a lot of pro-LGBTQ+ delegations who did an excellent job in explaining exactly what the problem was," said Kenzy Soror, one of two student trustees during the 2021-22 school year.

Soror went on to suggest limiting access to those videos and the offending remarks did little to limit exposure and ultimately left students searching on their own open to more harmful comments online, as well as leaving some adults oblivious to why the words caused harm to begin with.

She also said in the resulting void, personal politics was allowed to quickly move in.

"And every time one of these discussions was opened, in my opinion, it added more harm to the LGBTQ+ community, staff and students who are already vulnerable and marginalized," Soror said.

Because of this, Soror said she felt the need to recently post a thread on social media offering information about the meeting along with extra context she felt was missing as a student who was actually involved in the meeting.

"I wanted to be there for [students who felt harmed by the comments] and help put them centre in the conversation because, in the end, that's what this is about, it's about a delegation that's related to students and schools," she said.

That's not to say the conversation shouldn't have been had. Soror said ensuring books in school libraries are age-appropriate is important and she feels the content of the delegation itself was not necessarily the problem but the way in which it was delivered.

As for the two books mentioned in that delegation, Soror said she sees no issues with them.

"These books talk about characters who are the same age as senior elementary students being put in situations that senior elementary students might go through," she said, also referencing recent findings from a school board census which found a number of students across several grades who self-identified as neither male nor female.

"Regardless of how little that number may be, these students do exist and they deserve to see themselves and their experiences represented in their libraries," Soror said. "Not every student is the same and those different from us will not simply cease to exist if we don't read about them in library books."


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