TCDSB adopts changes after trustee likens LGBTQ issues to bestiality, cannibalism

But the Toronto Catholic school board voted against publicly condemning Michael Del Grande for his comments, despite receiving a flood of parent complaints.

Code of conduct complaints will be handled at public meetings

TCDSB Vice-Chair Michael Del Grande came under fire recently for comments he made during a heated debate about the board's code of conduct and protections for LGBTQ students. (Toronto Catholic District School Board)

The Toronto Catholic school board voted against publicly condemning a trustee who linked LGBTQ issues with cannibalism, pedophilia and bestiality during a debate last month.

However, the board is changing how it deals with code of conduct complaints from the public after the controversy.

Complaints will now be handled at open-door sessions of the 12-member board. Previously, they were aired at private meetings not open to the public.

Trustees approved the new process during a lengthy and contentious sitting on Monday night that dragged into the early morning hours.

The board also opted to hire an independent integrity commissioner to help it navigate future charges of misconduct against its members.

It was just the latest chapter in a story that has unfolded since early November, when Vice-Chair Michael Del Grande sparked outrage with comments he made as he argued against adding broader protections for LGBTQ students to the board's code of conduct.

Here's a breakdown of key developments up to this point:

Nov. 7: The Toronto Catholic District School Board meets to debate an update to its code of conduct first proposed in March. A motion to add the terms gender identity and gender expression — both identified in the Ontario Human Rights Code as prohibited grounds for discrimination — divides trustees. Del Grande moves an amendment, asking for other terms to be added to that list, including bestiality, pedophilia, cannibalism, auto-erotic asphyxiation and "auto-vampirism."

"I'd like all these terms to be considered — after all, everybody's concerned [that] the right terms are used, it's important to have the terms," Del Grande said.

Despite his opposition, the board votes 8-4 in favour of an updated code of conduct.

Nov. 18: The TCDSB reveals it has received "some calls and emails regarding the comments that were made" and says it is "monitoring the situation." An online petition calling for Del Grande's removal from the board starts to gain traction. Del Grande tells CBC Toronto that his comments were "hyperbole" and that he wasn't "serious."

Nov. 20: Board Chair Maria Rizzo says she has received a flood of angry emails from parents, but the board is waiting for a "formal complaint" before it launches an investigation into Del Grande's actions. The online petition has more than 1,000 signatures.

TCDSB Chair Maria Rizzo said in November that she had been flooded with angry emails from parents about Del Grande's comments. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Nov. 21: TCDSB says it has received "numerous" formal complaints about Del Grande and that the complaints will be brought to trustees for "immediate review and action." The board meets behind closed doors to discuss a course of action.

Dec. 9: The board again meets in private to discuss the complaints against Del Grande. It ultimately decides not to publicly denounce his comments though some trustees had called for it to do so. Trustees vote to handle future code of conduct complaints in public (with specific exceptions) and hire an integrity commissioner. The commissioner will work for the rest of the school year and the role could be made permanent in next year's board budget.

With files from Adam Carter and Lucas Powers


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