‘Deeply racist and transphobic’ remarks get school board trustee barred from all future committee meetings in 2023

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Published February 7, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Linda Stone is again under fire for tweets deemed transphobic. - via Twitter.

Controversial Durham District School Board trustee Linda Stone, who has repeatedly gotten herself in trouble due to a long record of comments deemed transphobic and racist, has now been censured and barred from the next board meeting and from sitting on committees for the rest of the year.

These consequences follow a months-long Integrity Commissioner (IC) investigation into comments Stone made over much of the last year, reaching back into the previous board.

The IC investigation, led by Senior Investigator Benjamin Drory, kicked off in February 2022 following three complaints from three then-councillors; Niki Lundquist, Scott Templeton and Darlene Forbes.

The complaints concerned Stone repeatedly raising concerns about DDSB facilitating students who transition, the use of puberty blockers to aid transition, and people who “de-transition,” an unusual reversal of the gender transition process.

Stone’s comments at the time were publicly condemned by her fellow trustees, the DDSB itself and numerous LGBT advocacy groups such as PFLAG Durham.

Additionally, Stone argued the phrase ‘white supremacy,’ which was condemned in a draft of the new DDSB Human Rights Policy, was derogatory to white people.

“This term separates whites from anyone else. This term is derogatory even though it is explained that it is not derogatory,” Stone said in October 2021.

While Stone’s questions were answered several times, she consistently posed them time and again, culminating in a “inappropriate diatribe,” per Lundquist, about her concerns and the belief she was being “cancelled.”

“My point of why people are afraid to speak about what they are really thinking, which is what I brought up at the last meeting, is for fear of reprisal, which happens often,” Stone said in part on Jan. 24 of last year. “So people police their words, they lie, or worse, they stay silent. The attacks on free speech is a universal tactic of intolerant groups, who wish to only have their beliefs heard.”

Templeton’s complaint about Stone’s comments stemmed in part from the idea Stone was trying “push her own agenda, which trustees aren’t supposed to do.”

Forbes echoed these concerns, telling Drory she found Stone’s speech about heterodoxy contained “all sorts of somewhat extreme far-right language” and was “inappropriate and divisive.”

On Feb 15 of 2022, she emailed then-Director of Education Norah Marsh: “I would just like to clarify whether or not we would allow children to be on puberty blockers and hormone therapy without the knowledge of their parents. At what age would we start a transition at school. Would we start at age 5?”

“The role of educators is different from medical practitioners and this question relates to the medical field,” Marsh replied to Stone and all trustees, “We have no new information to add to the response we gave [in November]: Educators have legal obligations to honour and respect the rights of a child.”

Forbes believed that should have been answer enough for Stone.

“Questions such as these have been repeatedly asked and answered,” she said. “I am deeply concerned that some trustees appear or unable or unwilling to distinguish the DDSB’s human rights policy, which aims to protect the rights and dignity of all staff, students, and community members, from their personal views.”

The investigation into Stone’s behaviour and comments came at the same time as an investigation into another councillor, Paul Crawford. The findings of this investigation, later dubbed the Crawford Report, outlined the principles that would later apply to the Stone investigation.

In the Crawford Report, Drory found trustees had somewhat more limited abilities to voice ‘political speech’ than officials in other municipal offices, such as city councillors.

This is due to the fact that such speech may deal harm to members of the school community and, therefore, “may run counter to their overarching obligation of advancing public education equitably, and can be contrary to the Code of Conduct,” Drory wrote.

However, while Drory was investigating Stone, she resigned from the board in May 2022 amid controversy surrounding her comments. As a result, the IC dropped its investigation after a request from the board.

However, Stone was elected back to the board in October, and in December, the Integrity Commissioner re-opened the investigation. Stone, meanwhile, came under fire again for further comments deemed transphobic the same month the commissioner renewed their investigation.

Drory soon wrapped up the case and sent his findings to the Board on January 23. In his analysis, he found, “It takes no effort to see how members of the community could feel hurt by Trustee Stone’s comments. However, the harm from her comments must be appropriately weighed against Trustee Stone’s ability to freely participate in good faith debate and decision-making, which is the heart of a trustee’s role.”

He stressed the differences between trustees and other elected municipal offices, reaffirming that trustees have more limited abilities to voice political beliefs than city or regional councillors, for example.

“A school board trustee’s role is not foundationally about ‘giving voice’ to the opinions of themselves and others around them.”

He found trustees must follow the Ontario Human Rights Code and that there are certain “views and understandings…boards are expected to uphold.” These include a student’s rights of gender identity and expression, which were added to the Code in 2012.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has found “discrimination and harassment because of gender identity or gender expression is against the law” as a result of that addition.

“Stone’s comments respecting gender identity issues plainly failed to meet the expected standard. Her comments insulted and demeaned trans people, and it would frankly be difficult for me to believe any argument to the contrary,” Drory found.

In fact, he deemed it odd that Stone “didn’t even try to advance” an argument that her comments were not discriminatory but simply that they should be allowed based on her idea of free speech.

Drory however did find that Stone’s comments about removing ‘white supremacy’ from the DDSB human rights code, as there is no agreed-upon definition, were warranted.

Finally, Drory weighed in on Stone’s speech from Jan 24, 2022, finding it “crossed the line of acceptable conduct – it was a soliloquy akin to political speech, and seemingly deliberately so since Trustee Stone prepared and wrote out her words in advance.”

“Trustee Stone’s speech was clearly intended to make a cultural point or statement. Her statement might have possibly found favour among some in the community, but it was inappropriate for a school board trustee,” he wrote, finding it also broke the code of conduct.

After Drory forwarded his report to the Board of Trustees, they held a special meeting on Monday and declared Stone guilty of six counts of breaching the Code. Stone was entitled to attend the meeting, though she would not be able to vote. However, she was not present.

The vote was unanimous.

As a result, the Board censured Stone and expressed a “strong disapproval” of her comments. Additionally, Stone is barred from the next board meeting set for Feb. 25 and will not be able to enter committee meetings until 2024.

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