August 12, 2023
From The Militant

MONTREAL — Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced July 25 his department will review the allegations made by longtime Toronto school principal Richard Bilkszto, who committed suicide July 13. Bilkszto had launched a lawsuit against the Toronto District School Board for failing to support him when he was falsely accused of racism by a “facilitator” during sessions of a mandatory April 2021 diversity, equity and inclusion program for school administrators.

Bilkszto, after a 24-year career as a teacher, retired in 2019. He continued working for the Toronto school board as a contract principal. He was a member of the Toronto chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which he helped to establish.

The diversity, equity and inclusion instruction was being led by Kike Ojo-Thompson. She is black and the CEO of the KOJO Institute, which has been contracted by the Toronto school board.

The program is similar to many others being promoted by “woke” officials throughout North America. The KOJO Institute is also well-remunerated for “facilitating” programs for the federal and Ontario governments, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and dozens of universities, banks and other capitalist outfits.

“We are here to talk about anti-black racism,” Ojo-Thompson said in the session. “But you in your whiteness think that you can tell me what’s really going on for black people? Your job in this work as white people is to believe.”

However, Bilkszto did speak up, disagreeing with Ojo-Thompson’s assertion that Canada was a more racist country than the United States. He had taught earlier in Buffalo, New York, and was familiar with education and life in both countries.

The next day Ojo-Thompson doubled down on her attack on Bilkszto, telling the group his comments were an example of “resistance” that upholds white supremacy. She said his reference to “facts” was an attempt to derail the conversation and discredit her words, and encouraged everyone attending the session to push back when they see others being “accosted by white supremacy” by people like Bilkszto.

School board officials backed up Ojo-Thompson. Its executive superintendent thanked Ojo-Thompson on Twitter for “modeling the discomfort that administrators” — Bilkszto — “may need to experience in order to disrupt ABR” — anti-black racism.

Other school board officials berated him for displaying “male white privilege.”

In his lawsuit against the Toronto school board, Bilkszto says that it retaliated against him by disinviting him from graduation for a program he helped create and revoking a contract offer. His educational career had been all but terminated.

Bilkszto filed a claim with the Ontario Workplace, Safety, and Insurance Board, which investigated and concluded that Ojo-Thompson “was abusive, egregious and vexatious, and rises to the level of workplace harassment and bullying.” They said she “appeared to intend to cause reputational damage and ‘make an example’ out of” Bilkszto.

The experience during the course resulted in Bilkszto taking a six-week medical leave from work. “The stress and effects of these incidents continued to plague Richard,” said a statement by his family released July 20 by his lawyer, Lisa Bildy. “His family and friends have been left reeling.”

Socialist Workers Party leader Mary-Alice Waters commented on programs — similar to those that KOJO runs — in the recently published Pathfinder Press book Labor, Nature, and the Evolution of Humanity — The Long View of History by Frederick Engels, Karl Marx and George Novack. She said the “woke” political framework they are based on is a reactionary barrier to objective, critical fact-based thinking, an understanding of class struggle as the fundamental motor force of human history, and the development of a revolutionary working-class movement capable of replacing capitalist society with socialism.

Waters condemns “today’s spreading ‘cancel culture’ among privileged middle-class layers in the universities, foundations, media and government circles, as well as the profoundly anti-working-class, anti-science ‘woke’ politics they promote.”

The bullying treatment meted out to Bilkszto at the hands of the Toronto District School Board administrators and the tragedy of his death is only one recent example of this reality.