Toronto

School board trustee goes on leave after TDSB says comments were disrespectful to staff

A Toronto District School Board trustee is taking a self-imposed leave of absence after the board's integrity commissioner found she used "discriminatory and derogatory" language that maligned staff.

TDSB's integrity commissioner is recommending sanctions against Sheila Cary-Meagher

Toronto District School Board trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher is taking a self-imposed leave of absence after the board's integrity commissioner found she used "discriminatory and derogatory" language that maligned staff. (CBC)

A Toronto District School Board trustee is taking a self-imposed leave of absence after the board's integrity commissioner found she used "discriminatory and derogatory" language that maligned staff.

In two reports that are part of agenda documents for the board's Wednesday meeting, Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig found that trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher contravened the TDSB's Board Member Code of Conduct. Cary-Meagher represents Ward 16, Beaches-East York.

According to the reports, Cary-Meagher "maligned" staff on two occasions, created an "intimidating" work environment and failed to treat staff and members of the public respectfully.

Craig is recommending to the board that Cary-Meagher be barred from attending any hearings involving expulsion of students until she completes a TDSB human rights and prevention of workplace harassment training course and meets with the board's human rights manager.

Craig is also recommending that Cary-Meagher write three letters of apology to three staff people she offended in the two occasions and that she be given 30 days to do so.

Publicly criticizing staff is 'intimidation'

On the first occasion, one report says Cary-Meagher used the words "dyke" and "bitch" to describe an openly gay person she disliked and did so in front of two other trustees and four TDSB staff members before a Nov. 27, 2017 student explusion hearing. The report does not name the person, but Cary-Meagher told the commissioner that the person to whom she referred is a public person. The person is not a female employee.

On the second occasion, the other report says Cary-Meagher said at a public meeting with parents on Oct. 19, 2017 that the board's communications staff "failed miserably" and "dropped the ball" in their information to parents about a police investigation into a threat that affected a school in her ward and led to a hold and secure. The report does not name the school. 
A Toronto police officer stands outside Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School, as the school entered a second day under a hold and secure in September 2017. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

In September 2017, Toronto police said there was a threat that affected Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior School and there was a community meeting called to discuss it on Oct. 19, 2017. 

TDSB communications staff were not invited to the meeting, which was attended by about 100 people, the school's principal and the superintendent, and members of the Toronto police.

"Publicly criticizing individual members of staff in a way that casts aspersions on their professional competence and credibility is tantamount to workplace intimidation," Craig writes in the one of the reports.

Trustee 'deeply' regrets comment

Cary-Meagher stated in a Feb. 2 letter to TDSB chair Robin Pilkey, and posted on the TDSB's website, that she is taking a leave and apologized to TDSB students and staff. 

"Last November, I made a comment that I deeply regret, using a term that I recognize was inappropriate and unacceptable," she says in the letter.

"I accept full responsibility for that and apologize unreservedly to the people I offended, the students and staff of the TDSB, to residents of Toronto who I have been privileged to serve and to the LGBTQ community in particular." 
TDSB's integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig says: 'It is extremely important that staff are protected, and the means by which that happens at the TDSB is through the code of conduct.' (CBC News)

Cary-Meagher says in the letter she will respects the integrity commissioner's findings and will apply herself "wholeheartedly" to the training required.

As for the public meeting, Cary-Meagher told the commissioner that she had about 50 emails from "concerned and angry" parents, a meeting had to be called and she was unaware of the work that communications staff had done to keep parents informed during the incident.

And as for comments made at the explusion hearing, Cary-Meagher admitted to the commissioner that there was no excuse for her comments.

Cary-Meagher has not yet responded to a request by email and phone for comment. 

Craig said in an interview with CBC Toronto on Monday that the board could accept her reports and recommendations, not accept, or accept and revise the recommendations.

"It is extremely important that staff are protected, and the means by which that happens at the TDSB is through the code of conduct," she said.

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