Canada: York trustee barred from board meetings after ‘offensive’ remarks - PressFrom - Canada

CanadaYork trustee barred from board meetings after ‘offensive’ remarks

10:55  20 june  2019
10:55  20 june  2019 Source:

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In an unprecedented move, a rookie York Region trustee has been banned from attending school board meetings for a year because of “cumulative actions” seen as being “blemishing” to the board.

Elizabeth Terrell-Tracey, the trustee for East Gwillimbury/Whitchurch-Stouffville, has also been barred from attending graduations, among a series of sanctions imposed by the York Region District School Board after a report by its integrity commissioner found she made comments on Twitter and to a reporter that were offensive to the Black community and disparaging to women.

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The trustee’s behaviour was addressed at a meeting Monday night.

The sanctions include Terrell-Tracey being immediately barred from attending private, advisory and public meetings until the end of June 2020. She’s also barred from attending student discipline, supervised alternative learning review and negotiations advisory committee meetings for the remainder of her 2018-22 term of office.

Integrity Commissioner Sandhya Kohli has previously urged YRDSB to “reprimand” Terrell-Tracy after she described receiving the “third formal complaint” on the trustee.

While unable to disclose the identity of the person who filed the complaint May 17 as it’s “confidential,” Kohli’s investigation found Terrell-Tracey to have contravened a section of the trustee code of conduct that deals with “integrity and dignity of office,” as well as violating other clauses dealing with discreditable conduct.

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Kohli’s investigation found Terrell-Tracey’s tweet quoting “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” aimed at one of the activists leading the charge to get her out of office, was problematic.

Kohli wrote “notwithstanding varied scholarly interpretations of its meaning, the fact is that tweeting a verse from Swing Low, Sweet Chariot caused a negative reaction from the public, one of dismay and alarm, because it hearkens back to the era of slavery.”

While this tweet varied in literal and scholarly interpretation, it “was taken as an affront to the Black community by some of its members, and also by other members of the public at large.”

Kohli also concluded the tweet can’t be read in isolation from her previous comments made to the Toronto Star in December 2018 in which she said “a person that doesn’t stay quiet in the kitchen is why they [the public] do not like me. I have many male qualities that traditionalists do not like.”

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“This comment was construed as disparaging of women and was the subject of two separate formal complaints for which I issued a report, and presented to the board on March 5, 2019,” Kohli wrote.

Reached by the Star on Wednesday, Terrell-Tracey apologized for upsetting people.

“I am sorry, I did write on Twitter to quote a religious gospel song lyric, although I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said. “It was in response to a reference and picture of heaven, I am sorry that I have upset people.”

“It’s an unfortunate situation that I’m in and I do believe things happen for a reason,” she added. “Also I’ve been praying for community peace since September, and I look forward to the future.”

Terrell-Tracey said she will continue to try to deal with her constituents.

“I’m still allowed to work with constituents who contact me. I’m also allowed to do school visits, and I’m also allowed to attend school meetings, as anybody in the public could attend as well,” she added. “I support the trustees, and I look forward to July 1, 2020, when I will have most of my voting powers back.

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“Maybe this is a way to have some closure and some way to move forward, so I think it’s important as a public servant to be responsible to the community,” she said.

While the slew of actions targeting Terrell-Tracey limit her power as trustee, the York school board can’t dismiss her or suspend her pay.

In a message Tuesday, board chair Corrie McBain said Terrell-Tracey is “ineligible” to represent YRDSB on the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, any government agency or outside organization seeking trustee membership from the board for the remainder of the 2018-2022 term of office.

McBain also said people should still be able to call the local trustee, adding that YRDSB is going to “ensure” that the community continues to have access to representation through staff, including local Superintendents, central Board and Trustee Services staff members and the Chair and Vice Chair.

Terrell-Tracey will also face restrictions on the use of her school board email account. She’s also barred from attending any elementary or secondary graduations in her capacity as trustee until the end of June 2020.

With files from Emma Sandri

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