Legal action filed against school board that expelled teacher criticizing age-appropriateness of classroom books

HAMILTON – The Justice Centre announced today that legal action is being taken against the Waterloo Region District School Board on behalf of Carolyn Burjoski. Ms. Burjoski, a former elementary school teacher, was expelled from a school board meeting after she objected to Board decisions to ban library books deemed “harmful,” and include books on sexuality as part of the curriculum for all elementary students. Ms. Burjoski attended the meeting, open to the public, on January 17, 2022, and attempted to make a 10-minute presentation to express her views, emphasizing that the proposed sex-ed materials would sexualize children and downplay the risks of medical sex transition.

Ms. Burjoski’s presentation included a passage from a book called Rick, by Alex Gino, about a young boy whose friend talks about naked girls all the time. The boy decides that there must be something wrong with him because he has no sexual feelings, so he declares his “asexual identity.” The presentation also showed a passage from a book entitled The Other Boy, by M.G. Hennessy, which deals with a girl who identifies as a boy and takes puberty blockers and testosterone as part of a medical sex transition. Ms. Burjoski commented that some of the books “make it seem simple or even cool to take puberty blockers and opposite sex hormones.”

Ms. Burjoski’s presentation was cut off after four minutes by Chairperson Scott Piatkowski, who alleged that it violated the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Board voted to uphold Mr. Piatowski’s decision, and Ms. Burjoski was expelled from the meeting.

According to Jorge Pineda, a lawyer for the Justice Centre, “Ms. Burjoski is a former teacher with sincere concerns about the appropriateness of the sexual content being shared with elementary school-aged children in Waterloo Region schools. The Board’s decision to silence her not only deprives her of her right to freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also deprives the public of hearing an informed dissenting voice on an issue that affects their children”

“The Supreme Court has described the free exchange of ideas as ‘the very lifeblood of democracy’. It’s difficult to imagine how a free society can properly function without vigorously protecting free expression, particularly expression that is deemed offensive or unpopular,” adds Mr. Pineda. “The Board’s decision to silence Ms. Burjoski, based on the false claim that her views violate the Human Rights Code, demonstrates a serious lack of understanding and respect for basic democratic principles and cannot go unchallenged.”

Justice Centre lawyers will argue in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that the decision to muzzle Ms. Burjoski was a violation of her Charter right to freedom of expression.