Parents who alleged their 6-year-old daughter was discriminated against based on her sex and gender identity when her teacher discussed issues such as “gender fluidity” in class have had their application dismissed by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
Adjudicator Eva Nicholls wrote in her decision that the child, anonymized as N.B. in the case, didn’t suffer any “direct discrimination” or “adverse impact,” and that her rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code “were not breached by the respondent’s actions.”
“We’re extremely disappointed with the result,” N.B.’s mother, Pamela Buffone, told The Epoch Times.
“A girl can go to school knowing she’s a girl and come home unsure of who she is because schools are meddling with children’s identities by completely disregarding biological reality as a relevant and important personal characteristic—now with the full support of the HRTO.”
‘No Such Thing as Boys and Girls’
The dispute dates back to early 2018 when N.B. was attending an elementary school in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB).
According to the HRTO decision released on Aug. 25, Buffone said her daughter told her and her husband that “there is no such thing as boys and girls” when they were having a conversation about family roles in March 2018.
The child would go on to say she didn’t want to be a “mommy” when she grew up and would own a dog instead. In addition, she said she knew “you can go to a doctor to change your body if you don’t want to have a baby.”
When probed about where those statements came from, N.B. said they were made by her Grade 1 teacher during class in January 2018, the decision states.
The teacher, named J.E.B in the decision, confirmed to the tribunal she made those statements, including “that there is no difference between boys and girls” and that “girls can be boys and boys can be girls,” as cited by N.B.’s father in the application.
The teacher said she “clearly factually misspoke” the statements in haste. She told the tribunal she subsequently apologized to the class and drew a gender spectrum on the board.
J.E.B. testified that the topic of gender identity came up in response to “certain teasing behaviours” that she observed in the class. She considered it a “teachable moment” by reading to the children “My Princess Boy,” a book that depicts a boy who wears dresses and likes to wear a princess tiara.
She said she responded to a direct question from one of the students by saying, “It is true that people can go to the hospital to change their bodies.” In further discussions in the following days, J.E.B. said she told the class “about how someone may feel differently in their heart from how they appear physically.”
The teacher also testified showing the children a video about gender pronouns, after a girl in the class chose a hand-sanitizer bottle with a boy cut-out figure taped on it, but some children “apparently intervened and shouted that she cannot use that bottle.”
“Subsequently, as the children were arranging two gender-specific groupings in the class and arguing about it once again, the teacher apparently said that “there is no such thing as boys and girls,’” the decision said.
“J.E.B. acknowledged in her evidence that she misspoke and that this was an inaccurate statement that she should not have made.”
At the hearing, which took place over six days in March, Buffone and her husband argued that the teacher had subjected their daughter to “ongoing discrimination” by a series of lessons that “denied the existence of the female gender and biological sex and undermined the value of identifying as female.”
The parents further stressed that the case is not about “turning back the clock” for individuals who are trans-identified, but about safeguarding children and putting up some “reasonable guardrails” at the school board level to “rein in the excesses of gender ideology.”
Nichols said in her decision that the changes proposed by the parents would run counter to the Ontario Human Rights Code.
“It is clear that this Application is ultimately not just or even primarily about N.B.’s experience in the Grade 1 classroom, but about the desire of adults to create systemic changes, which, if implemented, would be contrary to the Code, the policies of the Commission and the jurisprudence of the Tribunal,” she wrote.
The adjudicator added that N.B. did not face any “adverse impact, on the grounds of sex and gender identity,” and that the teacher’s comment did not amount “to the poisoned environment cited by counsel” since “there was no direct evidence to support this allegation.”
“It is clear that what N.B.’s parents are seeking was not a clarification or correction for their daughter, but systemic changes to the school board’s policy and to an educational system that in their opinion should not allow such concepts as ‘gender fluidity’ to be addressed in the classroom,” Nicholls wrote.
OCDSB spokesman Darcy Knoll said in an email that “the decision affirms the importance of nurturing learning environments for students of all ages, that are inclusive and representative of all gender identities.”
‘Irreconcilable Clash of Worldviews’
Lisa Bildy, a lawyer who represented the Buffone family, says she was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.
“Quite frankly, there is an irreconcilable clash of worldviews in our society right now, and that is reflected in this decision,” she told The Epoch Times.
“Respecting the inherent human dignity of gender diverse people, through inclusion and acceptance, is a very different goal than inculcating all children into thinking that their sex is a fiction or that they must have a gender identity.”
“Unfortunately, the tribunal was not concerned by the evidence of the teacher or other school board employees, since they all appear to start from the proposition that everyone has a gender identity—a subjective, internal feeling—and that this takes precedence over biological sex,” she added.
“This is the accepted dogma in many classrooms today and if you question it, or your child’s life is upended by it, your motivations will be the ones considered suspect.”
N.B.’s parents transferred her to another school board in September 2018. Buffone says her daughter “does not recall any apologies being made by her teacher.”
“The idea that ‘everyone has a gender identity’ which the HRTO declares in their ruling, is further evidence that a new political dogma is being imposed on all of us, including 6-year-old children in our education system,” she said.