Yesterday, a teacher at Waterloo Region District School Board attempted to present some of the materials recently made available to elementary-aged students there and raise questions about their appropriateness. The Chair of the Board interrupted the presentation and called a vote to determine whether Carolyn Burjoski should be able to continue her presentation and ask questions of the Board. The vote proceeded 5-4 in favour of the motion to stop the presentation. The video of Burjoski’s presentation and subsequent bizarre discussion and vote:
Letter to Trustees
In response, Canadian Gender Report has sent this letter to the Trustees of WRDSB in support of open discussion on these topics. You can find their email addresses here: https://www.wrdsb.ca/trustees/
Dear Chair Piatkowski and other Trustees,
Canadian Gender Report is a non-sectarian organization that promotes awareness of the complex and nuanced issues surrounding gender identity and medical gender transitioning of children and young people. We are very concerned about the manner in which you shut down the presentation by distinguished teacher Carolyn Burjoski because it creates an environment that disallows open discussion and breaches Canadian Charter rights. You did this under the pretense that she may be “violating human rights” because gender identity is a protected right when in fact, it would seem Burjoski’s Charter rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression were withheld for no reason other than to prevent uncomfortable information and legitimate concerns from being raised that you, in your position of trust and stewardship, must be able to address and bear responsibility.
Your suggestion that Burjoski’s presentation could be a violation of the human rights code illustrates the amount of fear that permeates any attempt at reasonable discussion of these very important and complicated issues. It is your responsibility as Trustees of the WRDSB to ensure that the materials being offered to your elementary-aged students are appropriate and do not promote misinformation. Burjowski’s presentation raised very important points and questions about the appropriateness of the materials recently made available to teachers and students at your Board.
Burjoski’s concerns are legitimate. There is growing international concern about the practice of transitioning gender-questioning children and young people. This includes the practice and effects of both social transition (changing of names and pronouns) as well as medical transition.
Please inform yourselves of the recent developments in this area including:
Sweden reverses course and halts most medical gender transitioning of under 18s except in “exceptional cases” which are monitored and conducted as experimental clinical trials. A government review is underway and new guidelines are expected later this year.
Finland reverses course and issues strict new guidelines that promote psychotherapy as a first line of treatment for gender dysphoria for all gender-questioning youth under age 25.
UK Government initiates review of puberty blockers and hormones and finds very poor quality evidence
Leading US gender clinicians raise concerns about the model of care, including stating that Canada is following “sloppy” care practices:
See this Washington Post article: https://archive.vn/wcUlK
And this recent oped by a renowned expert raises concern that there is a social contagion affecting children and youth who are identifying as transgender: https://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/are-we-seeing-a-phenomenon-of-trans-youth-social-contagion/
Of particular importance as Trustees of a school board is how these complex topics are addressed with students. We would like you to carefully review two important guidance documents.
First, the British Department of Education has released this guidance for educators:
Wording from the UK Education Department guidance document directs schools and educators as follows:
“We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.”
The second excellent resource for schools is Genspect’s Guidance for Schools package. You can find it here: https://genspect.org/guidance-for-schools/
Of note: “We recommend an approach that seeks to avoid political or ideological positions, and instead focuses on the many psychological ways educators may positively use their unique skills when working with individuals with gender-related distress.”
We support Burjoski’s attempt at raising concerns about the materials our schools are promoting to children about being transgender. Other parents have conducted reviews of teaching materials being used in Canadian schools and have similar concerns. Specifically:
- Materials are being used in schools to undermine one’s biological sex (also notably a protected human rights characteristic) as a useless concept and instead are suggesting to children that gender identity is a replacement for their biological sex. See this video used in Ontario schools which positions biological sex as an outdated and uneducated concept and promotes understanding oneself in terms of gender identity instead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=i83VQIaDlQw
- Materials used in schools are normalizing medical gender transitioning even when the practice of treating children and young people with puberty blockers and hormones is highly experimental. There is growing concern among experts that complex mental health factors are being overlooked and that children may be at risk of receiving inappropriate medical interventions. Please see this review of the You Inside Project (developed in partnership with the National Film Board), which promotes the idea that one’s body is wrong and in need of changing and does not offer any other support or suggestions for children who are struggling because they don’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes: https://genderreport.ca/teach-gender-identity-canada/
We respectfully ask you to make time to invite Burjoski back to finish her presentation. Further, we ask that you apologize to Burjoski and parents of the WRDSB and ensure that you will endeavour to understand these issues and provide clear direction to educators, along with transparency to parents, to disclose exactly how these new materials at the WRDSB are to be used with elementary school-aged students with respect to helping them understand their sexuality and gender.