An Ontario teacher was placed on leave after being accused of using “transphobic” language for voicing concern during a board meeting last Monday about the presence of books that celebrate medical gender transition in school libraries.
The teacher, Carolyn Burjoski, claims she is being “bullied, slandered and abused” for arguing that some books in libraries were inappropriate for children.
The Waterloo Region District School Board Chair Scott Piatkowski cut short Burjoski’s presentation after she said the school libraries have books that make the medical transition seem "simple" and “cool" available to kindergartners through sixth-grade students, The National Post reported.
The board, which oversees over 100 schools in the region, voted 5-4 to back up the chair’s decision.
In a video posted on Twitter, Burjoski said that she was informed the following morning by human resources that she was “immediately assigned to home, pending a formal investigation and banned from contacting my colleagues and students.”
“This was particularly upsetting to me because I love my students, and I have not seen them since December,” she said. “When my students excitedly returned to school on Tuesday — the first day of in-class learning after yet another lockdown — their teacher was not there, and they did not know why. I have been silenced and punished.”
During her presentation, the teacher started reading from the book Rick by Alex Gina, in which the protagonist discovers that he is asexual.
“While reading this book, I was thinking: ‘Maybe Rick doesn’t have sexual feelings yet because he is a child,’” she said in the meeting, according to CTV News. “It concerns me that it leaves young boys wondering if there is something wrong with them if they aren’t thinking about naked girls all the time. What message does this send to girls in Grade 3 or 4? They are children. Let them grow up in their own time and stop pressuring them to be sexual so soon.”
The teacher contends that she is “not a transphobic person.”
“It’s crazy that just because you ask a question, the first thing people do is call you that,” she told The National Post.
In her social media video, Burjoski said that “board members have taken to radio, television, social media to grossly misrepresent my remarks.”
“I feel bullied, slandered and abused,” she said. “The school board has removed the video of the meeting from their YouTube channel, so people are not able to hear what I actually said.”
“Most of the video is me reading excerpts from two books available to any young child who is able to read,” she continued. “My few comments expressed concern about age-inappropriate sexual content. I did not and do not question the rights of trans persons to exist in any way. I fully support the human rights of transgender people.”
She argues that “cancel culture needs to stop.”
“We need to recover our ability to listen to each other and speak with one another with open mind. Respectful dialogue is the core of democracy.
Piatkowski was quoted as saying that it was “unfortunate that it was necessary, but it was necessary.”
“I’m hearing from school board chairs and other boards that they would not have allowed that either. I’m hearing from past chairs of this board.”
Burjoski’s case comes as parents in the United States have raised concerns about the content that their children are being exposed to in their school districts.
Last November, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the largest school district in the U.S., said it was reinstating two books — Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe — to its high school libraries after a review into concerns raised by a mother that they contain “pornography” with graphic descriptions of sex acts between men and boys.
At a school board meeting in September, Stacy Langton, a parent of a student at Fairfax High School, said, “both of these books include pedophilia, [and] sex between men and boys.”
“Both books describe different acts. One book describes a fourth-grade boy performing oral sex on an adult male,” she said. “The other book has detailed illustrations of a man having sex with a boy… The illustrations include fellatio, sex toys, masturbation and violent nudity.”
Last August, the highest court in Virginia rejected a request by the Loudoun County School Board to uphold the suspension of a Christian teacher, Byron Tanner Cross, who was punished for criticizing a proposed policy requiring teachers to use trans students’ preferred names and pronouns. A lower court had struck down the school district’s suspension of the teacher.
“Looking to federal precedent as persuasive, it is settled law that the government may not take adverse employment actions against its employees in reprisal for their exercising their right to speak on matters of public concern,” read the order in part.