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Local teacher removed from school board meeting for 'transphobic comments'

The teacher told the public school board that a book available in school libraries make 'very serious medical interventions seem like an easy cure for emotional and social distress'
Jan. 17, 2022 WRDSB meeting / from WRDSB YouTube

A local teacher was removed from a public school board meeting after being accused of transphobia.

Carolyn Burjoski, a Waterloo Region District School Board teacher spoke to trustees about pulling resources in school libraries that contain content that she feels, may not be appropriate for children.

During the meeting, Burjoski said, "Some of the books filling our libraries make it seem simple, or even cool to take puberty blockers or opposite-sex hormones."

The teacher was interrupted by school board chair, Scott Piatkowski.

"I'm just getting a little concerned that your content may be problematic. I'm not sure exactly where you're headed, but I would caution you to make sure that you're not saying anything that would violate the human rights code."

Bringing up a book titled The Other Boy by MG Hennessey, Burjoski said it chronicles the medical transition of a person "born female and now identifies as a boy."

According to information in the teacher's presentation, there are 106 copies of this book in K-6 WRDSB libraries. 

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

Burjoski said that is "a very typical adolescent response."

"This 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," the teacher said.

She was stopped again by Piatkowski, who said her comments may violate the province's protections for gender expression and gender identity.

"I believe the delegation is talking about age appropriateness," said Trustee Cindy Watson, who was in favour of allowing Burjoski to continue speaking.

"I think that's a stretch to say in violation of the Human Rights Code for her to share what is, I believe, unless the director thinks it's not factually correct that these books are in our schools, I think the speaker should be allowed to continue," Trustee Mike Ramsay said. 

Ramsay added that the teacher is speaking to an issue that is on the agenda and made no personal attacks. 

The majority of the school board voted in favour of having Burjoski removed from the meeting. 

MPP for Kitchener Centre Laura Mae Lindo also weighed in.

In a tweet, she said, "I’m not sorry that someone who opened the door to transphobic comments was stopped from keeping that door open. That’s not over-reach. Protect the most vulnerable. Uphold human rights."

Trustee Jayne Herring tweeted, "There is no place for hate or derogatory speech against anyone. Ever. My sincere apologies to anyone who was harmed by tonight’s ... delegation presentation."

Earlier in her presentation, the teacher also expressed concern for a book titled Rick by Alex Gino.

"A boy named Jeff keeps talking to Rick about naked girls. Rick is confused because he doesn't think about naked girls, so he wonders if something is wrong with him. Rick gets invited to the school's Rainbow Club and he ends up declaring an asexual identity," Burjoski said.

"While reading this book, I was thinking, maybe Rick doesn't have sexual feelings because he is a child."

She said this book contributes to pressuring children to be sexual too soon.

You can find the full WRDSB meeting here.

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