Ontario Teacher’s Rights Were Violated When Board Expelled Her From Meeting, Lawyers Tell Hearing

Ontario Teacher’s Rights Were Violated When Board Expelled Her From Meeting, Lawyers Tell Hearing
Carolyn Burjoski, a former Waterloo Region District School Board teacher, was ejected from a school board meeting in January 2022 after raising questions about the age-appropriateness of some books in elementary school libraries that deal with gender transition. She said she is filing a $1.7 million lawsuit against WRDSB on May 4, 2022. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Peter Wilson

A legal advocacy group is arguing before the Ontario Superior Court that a former grade-school teacher’s charter-protected rights to freedom of expression were violated when she was expelled from a school board meeting after voicing her concerns about sexually explicit content in school library books.

Carolyn Burjoski, who was an elementary school teacher with Ontario’s Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) at the time, gave a virtual presentation before her school board in January 2022 during which she read excerpts from two children’s books containing sexual content that were available at the time in the district’s school libraries.
The books dealt with topics such as a 12-year-old child undergoing gender transition and a third-grade student declaring himself “asexual” after wondering why he’s “not thinking about naked girls.”
The board’s chair cut off Burjoski midway through her presentation and said he believed her words to be in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The board then voted to remove Burjoski from the trustee meeting, and shortly after was also expelled from her classroom and subject to a disciplinary investigation.
Burjoski said she retired soon afterward due to “extreme anxiety” stemming from the events.
She then launched legal action against the WRDSB calling on the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to overturn the WRDSB’s decision to cut short her presentation about the books.
“I did not violate the Ontario Human Rights Code,” Burjoski writes on her website, cancelledteacher.com, explaining her case for judicial review currently before the court.
“In fact, the Board and its Chair violated my right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Burjoski adds. “I am also asking the court to order the Board to allow me to return to the Trustee’s meeting where I hope to deliver my presentation in full.”

Court Hearing

The court heard Burjoski’s case virtually on June 5.

Jorge Pineda, a lawyer from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) who is working pro bono as Burjoski’s council, argued that the WRDSB violated her Charter-protected rights to freedom of expression by cutting her presentation short.

“The Supreme Court has described the free exchange of ideas as ‘the very lifeblood of democracy,'” the JCCF wrote in a news release about the case on May 31, adding that Pineda would argue the WRDSB’s “decision to muzzle Ms. Burjoski was a violation of her Charter right to freedom of expression.”

The JCCF also argued that the WRDSB’s decision that Burjoski “engaged in improper conduct, contrary to its policies, was unreasonable,” and also that there is “a reasonable apprehension that the [board’s] decision was influenced by bias.”

The legal council representing WRDSB during the hearing on June 5 argued that Burjoski’s free-speech rights were not violated because the board’s chair at the time, Scott Piatkowski, deemed her presentation to be in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Burjoski has taken issue with this argument, saying she believes it’s an example of school boards “using language and human rights legislation as weapons to intimidate and silence anyone who questions their policies.”

“Using human rights codes to intimidate dissenters and inhibit free speech is an abuse of the code,” she says on her website. “In my view, the message to all teachers is clear: if you speak up, you will be punished.”

The Ontario Superior Court is yet to make a decision on the case.

JCCF also told The Epoch Times that Burjoski is seeking costs in the event that the court sides with her, but no damages.

WRDSB is seeking $10,000 if it wins the case.