Linda Stone v. Durham District School Board

Video: hear Trustee’s story in her own words

School Board Trustee Linda Stone has filed an application for judicial review against the Durham District School Board (the “Board”) in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for censoring her speech and interfering with her ability to fulfil her role as an elected official.

Trustee Stone was recently censured by the Board and excluded from a Board meeting for exercising her freedom of expression and for voicing her constituents’ concerns about the Board’s policies around race, sexuality, and gender. She has also been barred from attending any Board committee meetings for the rest of this year.

During a Governance and Policy committee meeting on October 25, 2021, Trustee Stone expressed concerns on behalf of some constituents that singling-out the term “white supremacy”, which had been inserted into the Board’s draft “Human Rights, Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Racism Policy”, was derogatory, divisive, and unnecessary. Trustee Stone also raised concerns about the Board’s draft “Human Rights Inclusive Design and Accommodation Procedure”, which forbids teachers from disclosing information with parents about a student’s chosen gender identity or expression at school.

A few weeks later, at another Governance and Policy committee meeting on November 9, 2021, Trustee Stone raised additional questions about the meaning and appropriateness of the term “cis-normativity” in the Board’s draft “Human Rights, Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Racism Policy”.

In response to Trustee Stone’s legitimate questions and concerns, on behalf of both herself and her constituents, other Board trustees and community members launched an attack designed to suppress her freedom of expression and punish her for having a different opinion about the content of the draft policies. They submitted several complaints about Trustee Stone’s remarks and questions, which ultimately resulted in a formal Board inquiry.

For her remarks, and for similar statements and questions published on her personal Twitter account, the Board decided that Trustee Stone had breached its code of conduct. The Board formally censured Trustee Stone and barred her from attending the next Board meeting (on February 21, 2023). The Board has also excluded her from all Board committee meetings until December 31, 2023, effectively prohibiting her from exercising her role as elected trustee.

On February 24, Trustee Stone asked the Board to reconsider its decision, arguing (among other things) that the Board had failed to precisely identify the sections of the code of conduct policies she had allegedly violated, that the Board lacked authority to render its decision, and that its decision had been politically motivated. The Board was unmoved by her request, even though the Board’s own counsel advised the Board that it had, in fact, limited Trustee Stone’s free expression and that it would be advisable for the Board to reconsider its course of action.

Trustee Stone filed a Notice of Application against the Board in the Ontario Superior Court on April 6, 2023. Trustee Stone is asking the Court to set the Board’s decision aside, and to reinstate her as a democratically elected trustee with full rights of participation in the Board’s process. She also seeks a declaration that the Board’s conduct in this case amounted to a violation of her Charter-protected freedom of expression, as well as a public apology from the Board.

The Notice of Application also alleges that the Board acted beyond its authority when it decided to censure and punish Trustee Stone and was procedurally unfair.

Counsel for Linda Stone, James Manson, remarked, “A free and democratic society is one where the rule of law is respected, and where elected representatives are permitted to voice their concerns and opinions, as well as those of their constituents. These things are essential in a democracy; without them, there is no democracy at all. The Board’s decision engages not only Trustee Stone’s freedom of expression, but also erodes the very concept of the rule of law and the principle of democratic governance. Without these, no society can be said to be truly free.”

Manson continued, “We contend that the Board’s decision to punish Trustee Stone for bravely doing her job was unreasonable. Our goal is to have Trustee Stone’s ability to fulfill her elected role as trustee reinstated as soon as possible so that she can continue to fulfill her mandate for the people of Durham Region. The Board must also understand that it cannot violate trustees’ freedom of expression or punish them for expressing their opinions and asking questions, simply because other trustees may disagree with them.”

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