“This suggests that those who identify as Two-Spirit and LGBTQ2+ youth are not age appropriate…it undermines the humanity of these people”

Another motion for a review of the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) library was defeated at Monday night’s school board meeting.

The motion, put forward by Cambridge school trustee Cindy Watson, called for a review of the age-appropriateness of books in school libraries.

“I am bringing this motion based on multiple complaints from parents and community members. It’s part of a fiduciary’s duty,” Watson said.

“I have read emails and taken phone calls about age appropriateness. There are concerns that there are inconsistencies between the provincial sexual health curriculum guidelines and the books in school libraries.

At a WRDSB meeting in January, teacher Carolyn Burjoski was removed from the meeting while raising concerns about specific books in school libraries and suggesting they are unsuitable for children of a certain age .

Since then, Watson said provincial curriculum guidelines may not apply in school libraries and the community would like more information and reassurance that the curriculum guidelines of sexual health studies apply in school libraries.

“I hope administrators can support this motion to help build understanding and provide clarity for parents and community members who have concerns,” Watson said.

Administrator Karen Meissner said even the use of the term “age appropriateness” can be harmful.

“This phrase is often used to question the identities of Two-Spirit youth and LGBTQ2+ people and it is harmful because it suggests that those who identify as Two-Spirit and LGBTQ2+ youth are not their age. So that sentence undermines the humanity of these people,” Meissner said.

She went on to explain how libraries are spaces where students explore, where they learn about others, different cultures, places and topics that interest them.

“Libraries are spaces where students are connected to learning and literacy.”

“I think we have qualified learning and library staff who manage our library collections. These are experts in understanding the books who are available to students. I cannot support the motion,” Meissner said.

Trustee Jayne Herring said the motion did not meet the needs of every student.

“It can be harmful for some of our students. If families have a concern, they should discuss it with the school principal. It’s more appropriate because everyone’s concerns may not be the same,” Herring said.

“I have never in four years received a single complaint that even looks like this. So I will not support that.

Administrator Crystal Whetham and Mike Ramsay were the only other administrators to support Watson’s motion.

“Trustee Watson has identified that there are parents who are having issues,” Ramsay said.

“We must remember that no matter how we feel, we have a shared public duty to all of our students.”

Administrator Joanne Weston questioned the purpose of the motion.

“The issue of age appropriateness makes me wonder about books about all relationships or is it just LGBTQ2+ relationships that are of concern. Is it about all children understanding their bodies and their feelings or just LGBTQ2+ kids?” Weston said.

“I know there are books in our libraries that deal with how heterosexual children feel about themselves and their bodies. I never heard any objection to any of these books. We need to make sure that books are available for all students to help them in their relationships and to understand who they are and their feelings.

Trustee Watson said she hoped the trustees would support her motion.

“It has nothing to do with any particular group or any particular child. We’ve all received many emails about that phrase, “age appropriate,” Watson said.

“It’s about building understanding and providing insight into what’s being taught in the classroom.”