Ontario Teacher Responds to School Board’s Defence in Defamation Case Over Accusation Her Comments Were ‘Transphobic’

By Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.
August 4, 2022 Updated: August 5, 2022

Carolyn Burjoski, a former elementary school teacher who has launched a defamation lawsuit against the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and its chair after her comments about age-appropriateness of sexual content in children’s books were called “transphobic,” has released a video responding to the board’s defence.

The school board submitted a statement of defence on July 11, denying the allegations claimed in the lawsuit.

Burjoski, who filed her statement of claim against the school board on April 22, says while she expected the board to deny “any and all wrongdoing,” she didn’t foresee the approach they would take in their counterargument.

“What I did not expect is that, in their defence, this board—who cut off my presentation and ejected me from the trustees’ meeting, forbade me from speaking to my students and colleagues, and publicly maligned my reasonable comments as transphobic hate speech—is now pleading before the court that I am trying to suppress their free expression by suing them,” Burjoski said in a video shared on Twitter on Aug. 3.

“The irony is thick.”

Age-Appropriateness

Burjoski, who retired on Jan. 31, was registered as a delegation to the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 17 and was allotted 10 minutes to speak.

During her presentation, she read excerpts from two children’s books available in her elementary school libraries and criticized the age-appropriateness of their sexual content.

One of the books was “Rick” by Alex Gina, in which the main character, a young boy named Rick, questions his sexuality because he doesn’t think about naked girls like his friends do. He later declares an asexual identity after joining the school’s rainbow club.

The second book was “The Other Boy” by M.G. Hennessy, in which the female character identifies as a boy and takes puberty blockers and testosterone as part of her medical sex transition.

“Less than four minutes into my presentation, the board chair claimed that I had violated the Human Rights Code, and he ejected me from the meeting,” said Burjoski in a June 20 video, referring to Scott Piatkowski, who took the helm as school board chair in 2021.

While the WRDSB usually publishes video recordings of its meetings on YouTube, it didn’t post the recording of the Jan. 17 meeting. In a statement issued on Jan. 20, the board reiterated Piatkowski’s claims that there are concerns about potential violations of the Human Rights Code.

Claims

In her statement of claim filed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Burjoski said the interviews Piatkowski gave on CTV News and 570 News—on Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 respectively—about the meeting were “false and defamatory” that “maliciously” damaged her professional reputation.

“There were comments [from Burjoski] that were, frankly, transphobic that were questioning the right to exist of trans people,” Piatkowski said on CTV News at the time.

Among several comments he made on 570 News, Piatkowski said Burjoski was “not respectful or courteous towards transgender people.”

“And this delegate was speaking about transgender people in a way that would cause them to be attacked,” he said.

The retired teacher also said in her claim that Piatkowski shared a tweet on Jan. 17 that likened her presentation to “hate or derogatory speech,” followed by another one the next day, referring to her speech as a “Bat Signal” directed to “every transphobe on Twitter.” Both tweets have since been removed.

In addition, her claim noted that the WRDSB published a statement to all staff on Jan. 20 to “express our deep regret for any harm caused to the transgender community,” and a second one on Jan. 25 that they have “taken the necessary steps to reduce harm to WRDSB students, staff, and community and reduce its legal exposure” by stopping Burjoski’s presentation and not sharing the video with the public.

“These statements have been widely disseminated in local media reports, radio, television, social media, Twitter, and other online forums, as well as the WRDSB website and to all WRDSB staff,” the statement of claim said.

“They have been highly visible to the community at large, as well as Burjoski’s teaching colleagues, students and past students, and their families. The full extent of this dissemination is not known and cannot be known.”

Defence

In the statement of defence filed on July 11, the WRDSB and Piatkowski argued that due to “significant” public interest in Burjoski’s case at the time, Piatkowski agreed to do the media interviews and participated in the discussion on Twitter in his capacity as chair.

The defendants pleaded that none of their comments on Burjoski bore or was capable of bearing any defamatory meaning. “The conduct of the media was not within the control and/or responsibility of the defendants,” they said.

They added that their remarks were made in “good faith and no malice” and they had no intention to inflict mental or emotional harm on Burjoski, which she claimed in her statement. On the contrary, they alleged the former elementary teacher was attempting to “silence” them and suppress freedom of expression.

“The defendants plead that this action is brought by the plaintiff for the purposes of silencing the defendants and chilling the expression of others in relation to matters of public interest—namely, the support of the LGBTQ2S+ + community—rather than for the bona fide purpose of recovery damages for loss of reputation, which is denied.”

‘Gaslight’

Burjoski, who worked as a WRDSB teacher for over 20 years, says the board’s attempts to deny her claims won’t work.

“This Board seems to think they can gaslight an entire community and even the Court into believing the exact opposite of what is actually true,” she said in her latest video.

She said while she fully supports the rights of the LGBT community, she is opposed to inappropriate books in school libraries.

“What I do not support is the Board’s silencing, shaming, and punishment of anyone who criticizes the age-appropriateness of Board policies based on Gender Theory,” she said.

“If the School Board has policies and practices with the potential to harm children, then parents and teachers have an obligation to speak up and a right to be heard.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the WRDSB for comment. In response, spokesperson Eusis Dougan-McKenzie said, “We do not comment on ongoing legal issues.”

Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.