A retired teacher is filing a defamation lawsuit against Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and its board chair for calling her "transphobic" and ordering her to stay home from school after she raised questions about the age-appropriateness of sexual content in children's books in an elementary school library earlier this year.
"In my view, the message to all teachers is clear: 'If you speak up, you will be punished,'" she said.
"I am deeply concerned by the punitive way that the board and its chair acted in this matter. Therefore, I have filed a defamation claim with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the WRDSB, and its Board Chair Scott Piatkowski to hold them accountable for their words and actions."
“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?” she said at the time. “They are children. Let them grow up in their own time and stop pressuring them to be sexual so soon.”
Piatkowski interrupted Burjoski’s talk at that point, warning her against making comments that he said would violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code. He later ejected her from the virtual meeting, despite challenges from some board members against his decision.
Burjoski said the WRDSB removed the video of the board meeting from its website "so people could not hear for themselves what I actually said."
The day after the meeting, Burjoski said she was told by human resources that she was “assigned to home” and prohibited from speaking to her students and colleagues, while pending a formal disciplinary investigation.
"Over the next few days, I became the centre of a national media frenzy, fuelled by statements made by the board chair on radio, TV, and social media. He attributed to me remarks that I did not make, characterized them as hateful, and accused me of violating the Human Rights Code," Burjoski said in her latest video.
"The enormous stress on me and my family from these events has been overwhelming. On Jan. 22, I suffered a breakdown from extreme anxiety and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I am still in recovery from this trauma."
Just days before Burjoski's retirement, the investigators summoned her for questioning, during which she said she was required to sign a "gag order." The investigation was halted after Burjoski's doctor placed her on medical leave.
On her GoFundMe webpage, she also spelled out her concerns about the WRDSB's lack of transparency in its "culling" of school libraries' and teachers’ personal collections of books it deems harmful.
"Although the culling was already underway, the Board could not answer the reporter’s request for the criteria being used, nor could the Board explain how the team was chosen. Teachers were not informed about the fate of our own collections," she wrote.