Ontario Teacher Silenced for Questioning Age-Appropriateness of School Books Looks to Civil Suit After Being Denied Appeal

by EditorK

Carolyn Burjoski, a former Waterloo Region District School Board teacher, was ejected from a school board meeting in January 2022 after questioning the age-appropriateness of some books in elementary school libraries that deal with gender transition. (Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Chandra Philip

By Chandra Philip

The Ontario Court of Appeal has denied an appeal for a judicial review in the case of an elementary school teacher whose presentation about age-appropriate books was cut short by the school board over concerns her presentation violated gender expression rights under provincial law.

Carolyn Burjoski’s presentation to the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) was shut down in January 2022 when she questioned the sexual content in some books available in elementary schools.

Ms. Burjoski discussed books during her presentation that she felt made it “seem simple or even cool to take puberty blockers and opposite sex hormones,” according to court documents.

Board chair Scott Piatkowski previously said he stopped Ms. Burjoski’s presentation because he believed it was in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Ms. Burjoski asked the courts for a judicial review of the board’s decision, saying it violated her Charter rights, including her right to free expression. Her case was denied in November 2023 and she appealed.

In the November decision, the three-judge panel said that it was reasonable for Mr. Piatkowksi to stop the presentation to keep order, as defined in the school board’s bylaws. They also said that a “high degree of deference” must be given to school boards.

Ms. Burjoski’s legal team received the court decision to dismiss the appeal on March 28.

“To add insult to injury, the court ordered me to pay an additional $2,500 on top of the $5,000 already awarded to the board in November,” Ms. Burjoski said in a video she posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“This decision not only denies me the justice I sought, but it also sets a dangerous precedent that threatens a fundamental pillar of our already weakened democracy: The right to freely express our thoughts and opinions,” she said.

Ms. Burjoski noted the board’s lawyers accused her of being off-topic with her presentation.

“A claim never made by chair Piatkowski during or after the board meeting,“ she said. ”Sadly, the board now regularly uses the vague accusation of being off topic as a convenient tool to suppress viewpoints it disagrees with.”

The Epoch Times contacted the school board for comment but did not hear back by publication time.

“Silencing me was a direct violation of my right to free expression and a disturbing display of authoritarian speech suppression by the school board,” Ms. Burjoski said in the video.

She said the loss of the appeal made winning her civil case more important.

“While we have lost this battle at the Ontario Court of Appeal, our fight is far from over,” she said. “The outcome of this case highlights the critical importance of winning my ongoing civil defamation lawsuit.”

Defamation Case

Ms. Burjoski has filed a separate defamation lawsuit against Mr. Piatkowski and the board. 

In media interviews after the presentation was stopped, Mr. Piatkowski said that Ms. Burjoski’s comments were “transphobic.”

The school board filed a motion in September 2023 asking for the lawsuit’s dismissal. Ontario Superior Court Justice James Ramsay ruled against the board Nov. 23, allowing Ms. Burjoski to move forward with her lawsuit.

Justice Ramsay said in his decision the Human Rights Code “does not prohibit public discussion of anything” and that the comments made by Mr. Piatkowski were defamatory.

“The actions and comments made by the board and its former chair, following my expulsion have not only damaged my reputation and health, it has also represented a broader threat to free speech,” Ms. Burjoski said in the video. “We must not be intimidated to voice our opinions. Winning this lawsuit is now more crucial than ever to set a precedent that protects freedom of expression for all Canadians.”

Chandra Philip is a news reporter with the Canadian edition of The Epoch Times.

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