The Ottawa Carleton District School Board trustees may have voted to no longer have a police presence in their schools, but they have no problem calling the police to come to their meetings.
For the second time this winter, the Ottawa Police Service was summoned by the OCDSB during one of its public meetings.
A Manotick father was in the middle of speaking to the board when he was abruptly shut down by Trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, who was acting board chair for the meeting. He was in the middle of a four-minute presentation when he was cut off by Kaplan-Myrth, who then called for a recess.
The presentation made by the Manotick parent was ended because the board considered it transphobic. The board’s Chair, Lyra Evans, who is trans gender, had already walked out of the meeting.
The OCDSB released a statement following the meeting.
“In making a written submission to be a delegate at the March 7th meeting, the individual asked to speak about issues regarding inclusivity in the context of helping defuse conflict and bullying and ensuring the safety and mental health of students,” the statement read. “Once the individual began their presentation it was clear the intention was to speak in opposition to trans students using washrooms according to their gender identity, which was not the topic presented in the delegate’s submission. Due to concerns that the presentation was transphobic and could be used to promote hate or discrimination against trans youth, the chair ruled the delegation out of order.”
Following Kaplan-Myrth’s ruling made in consultation with staff, the meeting went into recess. A group of adults attending the meeting was angry about the ruling and were asked to leave. The Ottawa Police Service was notified and went to the OCDSB office. The individuals left before police arrived.
“The OCDSB reaffirms our commitment to cultivating safe working and learning spaces where trans and gender-diverse students, staff, family members and community can express their authentic self and feel welcomed and belonging. Individually held beliefs or feelings of discomfort are not a justifiable reason for discriminating against trans and gender-diverse community members,” the OCDSB said in the statement.
Nick Morabito responded by creating a post on YouTube, which included footage of his presentation and an explanation of what he was trying to say and why he does not consider it offensive.
Less Than A Minute
“I was given four minutes to speak,” Morabito said. “I was cut off a minute in. I was told that my comments were endangering gender diverse folks.”
Morabito says that his comments were not targeted at the transgender and non-binary population. Rather, they were aimed at protecting his children from potential predators.
“The main point I was trying to make, and I would still like the opportunity to make this point, is that under this current bathroom inclusion policy, anyone from the general population – not a trans person or a non-binary person, but anyone – can pretend to be something they are not and identify as something they are not to get access to these bathrooms and these change rooms for whatever reason. That is a risk that I don’t think is fair for them to ask us parents to accept. There is a solution, and we should be able to talk about it.”
During his presentation, Morabito raised concerns that a teenager who was assigned the gender of male at birth, would be able to use the same washroom as his 12-year-old daughter without supervision.
“I wasn’t present at the board meeting that pushed this policy through, and I can’t figure out when this was done,” he said.
Morabito said he is concerned for the safety and inclusivity of all people. He added that “this is about having appropriate and safe boundaries for progression, and doing things in line with the parental community’s wishes.”
At that point, he was interrupted by Kaplan-Myrth.
“On the grounds that this creates an unsafe environment for people who identify as gender diverse, I’m going to have to ask you to end your delegation.”
Morabito reacted by asking how he was creating an unsafe environment, Kaplan-Myrth did not respond, but called a recess.
Morabito then responded by saying, “You guys are cowards, honestly. I have 10 and 12 year old daughters. I have every right to speak.”
At that point, members of the audience began to vocalize their support for Morabito’s right to speak at the meeting.
“He had four minutes to speak,” yelled one member of the audience. “Who are you to stop him? You work for the public. He’s a member of the public and a concerned parent and you’re not even listening to him.”
While Morabito was not able to finish his presentation at the meeting, he did read the rest of it on his YouTube post.
“I wonder how many parents know that trans female students, traditionally classified as male in gender, are allowed in their daughters’ bathrooms and change rooms unsupervised when each school has a gender neutral private bathroom that can be used instead,” he said.
Morabito held up a copy of the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s policy on gender identity and gender expression.
“The gender policies in this document that I am holding were first drafted in 2016,” he said. “I can’t seem to find the board meeting minutes where the parents were involved and agreed to any of these policies. Yes these policies are a reflection of the Ontario human rights code, but they could have been implemented in such a way as to satisfy the entire community.”
Morabito said that the actions of the board contradict the fundamental tone of its own policy.
“The first line of this document states that all students and families of students need to feel physically and emotionally safe. A gender-neutral bathroom seems like the safest and most comfortable place for a student who identifies as trans or non-binary,” he said. “Pretending that sexual predators don’t exist, and that someone can simply pretend to be trans or non-binary to take advantage of this loop hole, or concerning that there is no risk or reason to be concerned that a student with a 14-year-old young man’s body is in the bathroom unsupervised with our daughters as young as 12, or pretending to change in the change room naked, and being exposed to unsuspecting girls of all ages, is not a cause for concern or at the very least an infringement on those girls’ safe spaces, comfort and rights, is the issue I am speaking to.”
Morabito asked that if and when a sexual harassment, indecent exposure or safety incident does occur, how does this help the trans community?
“When you have angry parents who are forced to pick a side on this, when they would typically support all things related to inclusivity but have no choice but to object to this, how does that help the trans community? It doesn’t.”
Morabito is calling on the board to do two things. First, he would like to see the current policy revisited with an open dialogue involving parents and the community. Secondly, he would like to see, until this issue is resolved, a rule at schools put in place where transgender and non-binary students use only the gender-neutral bathrooms.
In an interview with CityNews, Barrhaven-Knoxdale-Merivale Trustee Donna Blackburn said that had he been permitted to finish his presentation, perhaps the board would not have been so quick to dismiss him as a danger or threat to the transgender community.
“I didn’t see anything in what that gentleman was saying to be hateful or offensive,” she said. “I think he was just trying to share his concern. I think, at the end of the day, if he would have just been allowed to finish what he had to say, any of my colleagues could have asked him questions for clarification — it probably would have been over and it wouldn’t have been a big hoopla. But, when you cut somebody off — I did hear some people from the gallery shouting. I think people were legitimately upset.”
CityNews also got a comment from Kaplan-Myrth. They asked her if cutting off delegates set a bad precedent by not giving someone their right to freedom of speech.
“Actually, the bad precedent is that people think they can intimidate, bully, harass and bring their hate into our space – that they think they can use boards of education as a locus for their racism and discrimination,” she said to CityNews Ottawa. “That’s the bad precedent.”
Two days after the meeting, Kaplan-Myrth received an anti-Semitic death threat referencing her actions at the ODCSB meeting.
She posted the threat on Twitter and wrote:
“At our @OCDSB meeting in #Ottawa March 7, I did my job. March 8, this arrived. Don’t look away. Don’t be indifferent. This vitriol is a threat to us all. #Antisemitism and #transphobia have no place in our society. #EnoughIsEnough #TransRightsAreHumanRights”.
Morabito shared her tweet and added a comment.
“Sickening and completely undeserved. When concerns surrounding children are present shutting down open dialogue creates anger but no excuse for this disgusting display of hatred.”
Kaplan-Myrth also received anti-Simetic threats after a meeting in which she fought unsuccessfully to mandate the use of masks in all of the board’s schools.
Morabito is planning on attempting to make another presentation to the OCDSB at their April 4 meeting.
Feature Image: Nick Morabito holds up the ODCSB’s trans gender policy book on YouTube, where he finished the presentation he was making the March 7 OCDSB meeting. (Photo/YouTube screenshot)