Censoring and Censuring: Another Ontario School Board Fiasco



April 10, 2024
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Parents can advocate for change in their local school by electing and speaking with local school board trustees, who represent the families that the school board serves. But what if some trustees can censure or suspend others who disagree with progressive orthodoxy?

Trustee Censured in Durham

That’s what happened with Linda Stone, a school board trustee in Durham, Ontario. In 2022, Stone disagreed with the school board’s new policies on systemic racism and on concealing a child’s gender identity from parents. So her fellow trustees censured her and denounced her comments.

At the time, Stone was also criticized for various social media posts questioning the ‘accepted’ approach to transgenderism. In a statement, the Durham District School Board noted that Stone’s comments were “contrary to the commitment, values and actions of the [Board].”  In response, Stone stepped down from the Board, but was re-elected in October 2022.

Fast forward to 2024, when Stone was investigated by the school board’s Integrity Commissioner for multiple social media posts including posts that questioned puberty blockers for minors, highlighted people who had “detransitioned,” and criticized Indigenous land acknowledgements. Ultimately, the Commissioner found that Stone had breached the board’s Code of Conduct, mainly focused on posts related to gender and sexuality.

In particular, Stone had contravened two policies in the Code of Conduct:

6.3 Trustees shall discharge their duties, as set out in the Education Act, loyally, faithfully, impartially and in a manner that will inspire public confidence in the abilities and integrity of the Board.

6.8 Trustees shall serve and be seen to serve in a constructive, respectful, conscientious and diligent manner.

Additionally, the Commissioner noted the duty of trustees under the provincial Education Act to “promote a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils, including pupils of any race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.”

In response to the Commissioner’s recommendations, school board trustees voted to ban Stone from meetings until mid-2025. Stone chose to resign from the Board.

Role of Trustees

The problem here isn’t that the school board has a Code of Conduct for staff and trustees. There should be accountability if a trustee acts inappropriately, such as by refusing to follow meeting protocol or etiquette, misusing confidential information, or mistreating staff or constituents.  The problem here is with censoring opinions on contentious issues that merit discussion.

After all, Stone is an elected representative of a governance body. After the first fiasco in 2022 where she was denounced by the board, she was re-elected. Evidently, Durham voters wanted her to represent them. School board trustees work to apply provincial directives and policy to local schools, interacting with the Ministry of Education and with local parents and families. They also set vision and goals for individual schools and are held accountable as the governing body of local schools to both the government and the constituents in their community.

This means that parents can talk to their trustees about specific school-related problems such as how their child is treated, or what their child is learning. If a parent is perturbed by gender ideology in their child’s school, a conversation with the school board trustee is a good place to start. You can read more here about why Christians should be involved with their public school board even if they choose to educate their children privately or at home.

Provincial Action

This is not the first time a school board trustee has been censured for opinions that go against the prevailing worldview in the public school system. And typically, in situations like this, the province doesn’t say or do anything about it.

The province sets policies for education and leaves them to local school boards to administer. Generally, this is a helpful approach as it allows for local solutions to local problems. But when trustees are inappropriately censured, the province should not simply leave it alone.

Ultimately, elected representatives are held accountable by voters. If voters do not agree with a trustee’s opinions on political or social issues, they can vote for someone else. Following the first time trustee Stone was censured, she was re-elected because enough voters approved of her work. Rather than censuring trustee Stone, the board ought to leave it to voters to decide whether they want her to continue to represent them.

But it’s not just a question of what the board should do. The provincial government ought to denounce the board’s actions and introduce a policy that prevents school boards from suspending a trustee for expressing political views. This would prevent local voters from being disenfranchised when trustees who represent their views get suspended.

It’s not uncommon for the province to respond to local school board problems. For example, when one school board recommended that schools avoid talking about the Queen following her death, Minister Lecce ordered all school boards to commemorate the Queen’s death. Or when one school board chose to end early on the day of the solar eclipse, Minister Lecce expressed concern but did not force them to change their plans.

The provincial government ought to address the situation in Durham region directly. School boards should not be censoring opinions or censuring elected representatives for stating those opinions, and the Minister of Education should make that clear. The current approach to gender identity in the public school system is problematic, and school board trustees must be able to represent their constituents in expressing their opposition. Send an EasyMail to your MPP to ask the government to adopt a policy that prohibits school boards from censuring an elected trustee for their views on political or social issues.

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