Richard Bilkszto, principal bullied in DEI session, honoured at Toronto memorial

Richard Bilkszto, principal bullied in DEI session, honoured at Toronto memorial

By Sue-Ann Levy – October 17, 2023 FacebookTwitterPinterestWhatsAppLinkedin

Toronto District School Board teacher Natasha Mansouri said Sunday that well-respected educator Richard Bilkzsto’s untimely passing is a “significant loss” to everyone who knew him.

In a touching and eloquent tribute, Mansouri told a group gathered at Mel Lastman Square that Bilkszto had a “compassionate and unshakeable commitment to enhancing the quality of public education” – that he was a rare commodity.

Despite the chill and rainy skies, about 100 friends and former colleagues came out to pay tribute to the 60-year-old principal, who took his life in mid-July.

He was an educator who promoted “strength rather than victimhood,” who “dared to question” and who viewed “obstacles as opportunities,” said Mansouri, one of a half a dozen trustees, teachers and community members who gave touching tributes to him.

“I am troubled by the scarcity of people like Richard who confront bullies whether they’re in the schoolyard or the bullies who stand in front of the class,” she said. “I wish there were more individuals like him, brave and tireless who take a stance and speak up.

“If you’re out there, please speak up, you are not alone.”

It was clear she was speaking about the circumstances that led Bilkszto to take his own life in mid-July.

His lawyer Lisa Bildy and his family have both said it was the bullying by a Black Lives Matter-supporting Diversity, Equity, Inclusive (DEI) trainer in the spring of 2021 and the ongoing harassment by TDSB anti-racism executives that led to his death.

I have requested financial information under FOI legislation on the cost to the TDSB of the DEI trainer – Kike Ojo-Thomson of the KOJO Institute – but have yet to receive it.

In late July, both Education Minister Steven Lecce and TDSB education director Colleen Russell-Rawlins announced reviews of the situation leading up to his unfortunate death. But, after almost three months. we’ve heard nothing from either.

In my view, the TDSB review – being conducted by the King Advisory Group – is the furthest thing from independent and merely an attempt to sweep the harassment by TDSB executives and their preferred contractors under the rug.

The two teachers who spoke announced an award and scholarship in Bilkszto’s name. 

The award will recognize an educator who exemplifies the qualities the principal embodied, said TDSB trustee Weidong Pei.

“(He embodied) a dedication to excellence in education and devotion to his students and their well-being,” he said.

The scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate accepted at a teachers college in Ontario who embraces the same qualities, the teachers said.

Teacher Jon Roberts, who was involved with Bilkszto in a chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), said as a gay man who came of age in the 80s, Bilkszto knew about bigotry and hatred.

But he never insisted the intolerant get with the program or else, said Roberts.

“He was calm and caring…a beacon of positive change,” he said.

Pei said he was a teacher who insisted everyone have equality of opportunity no matter “what they look like.”

After Bilkszto helped Pei win the trustee election in 2022, he told him with a smile he better keep his promise to fight for children.

“Richard, I know you now look from the sky…I hope I made you proud fighting for the children you love,” the Willowdale trustee said, getting emotional.

“We are all better for knowing you and we are poorer for your loss.”

Ragini Sharma of the Toronto Asian Parents Association said Bilkszto was an ally for Asian students – “sensitive and sympathetic” to such students “being sidelined” in the TDSB system.

She said he appreciated that Asian students were considered “privileged” and labelled “white adjacent” by the anti-black racism focus of the board.

“He understood that Asian students do well because their parents value education and work hard to help the children succeed in school,” she said. 

“We shared his concern about school boards becoming more divisive in how they handled diversity and equity.”

She added that she knows Bilkszto would have liked the board to do more to bring more belongingness and compassion among students and staff.

“May his soul rest in peace,” she said.

“May his legacy never be forgotten,” added Mansouri.

The tribute ended with a moment of silence in his honour.


The Canadian Association for Free Expression Proudly Presents

Paul Fromm

Director, Canadian Association for Free Expression

Winner of the George Orwell Free Speech Award, 1994

     The Wrecking Crew Tries to Remake Canada 

 *  Trashing the history of Canada’s European founding/settler people

*   Toppling statues

*  Cancelling Canada Day

*   The new passport

Talk given in Hamilton, Ontario, August 6, and Toronto, Victoria, Regina, and Winnipeg

POISONOUS WHITE-HATING “ANTI-RACISM” — School principal’s death is a stain on the conscience of this nation

[Note: ” Meanwhile, other actors in this appalling tragedy thrive. The KOJO Institute appears to have received at least $100,000 from the federal government for offering three courses. But its list of clients reveals its reach to be long and extensive in Canada: TD Bank, the National Ballet School, Loblaws, the Ontario government, the RCMP, the CBC, Rogers, school boards across Ontario, and many others.” These organizations have subjected their employees to this White-hating hate propaganda. — Paul Fromm.]

Michael Higgins: School principal’s death is a stain on the conscience of this nation

It’s time to stand up against the woke zealots who destroyed Richard Bilkszto Author of the article: Michael Higgins Published Jul 25, 2023  •  Last updated 5 days ago  •  4 minute read 688 Comments

Richard Bilkszto
Richard Bilkszto, a highly lauded Toronto school principal who was an anti-discrimination advocate, took his own life on July 13. He had suffered a mental health crisis after being accused of white supremacy by a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) trainer. The Toronto District School Board subsequently rescinded his work contract. Photo by Veronica Henri / Postmedia News

The suicide of former school principal Richard Bilkszto is an appalling tragedy and a warning that unless we stand up to woke, moralizing, antagonistic bullies who seek to shame Canadians then we are all complicit in such deaths. Advertisement 2 Story continues below


It is regrettable that the majority of sensible, pragmatic and well-meaning people in this country have been cowed into silence by the vocal, angry, shrill hectoring of ideologues who preach nothing but destruction: destruction of institutions, society, history and people. Read the conversation Have your say Leave a comment and share your thoughts with our community. Read All 688 Comments

All in the name of what? What vision do they offer? What better world do they proclaim? What glorious future awaits us once our guilt has been cleansed, our penance done? Except for the woke lecturers, our guilt can never be forgiven, our repentance never done and our remorse never enough.

Stand up to these people and you will be shamed, singled out and bullied. It happened to Richard Bilkszto, and if you take a stand it will almost certainly happen to you. Be aware of that and be prepared. Because the alternative to not taking a stand is terrifying and is already happening. We have become a nation where good people are afraid to speak their mind; where silence is chosen when colleagues are savagely abused by these hostile fanatics, and where people avert their gaze so they do not have to see what is happening before their very eyes. Advertisement 3 Story continues below

What happened to Richard Bilkszto is a stain on the conscience of this nation.

Bilkszto had been a principal for 24 years, previously taught at an inner-city Buffalo school, was said to be an exemplary teacher, and was working as a contract principal for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) when he underwent a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) course in April 2021.

As described by journalist Jamie Sarkonak, Bilkszto had the courage and temerity to question DEI trainer Kike Ojo-Thompson, CEO of the KOJO Institute, over a claim that Canada was, in essence, a racist hellhole.

According to a lawsuit by Bilkszto, Ojo-Thompson described Canada as a “bastion of white supremacy and colonialism” where capitalism and the patriarchy were killing people. Canada was more racist that the U.S., she said.

It was all too much for Bilkszto, who spoke up. “To sit here and talk about facts and figures and then walk into the classroom tomorrow and say ‘Canada is just as bad as the United States,’ I think we are doing an incredible disservice to our learners,” he told the class.

According to the lawsuit, that’s when the shaming started.

That’s when the shaming started

“We are here to talk about anti-Black racism, but you in your whiteness think that you can tell me what’s really going on for Black people?” the lawsuit alleges Ojo-Thompson  said.

In your whiteness?

Another KOJO training facilitator told Bilkszto, “If you want to be an apologist for the U.S. or Canada, this is really not the forum for that.”

Ojo-Thompson added, according to the lawsuit, that “your job in this work as white people is to believe” — not to question claims of racism.

When did it become acceptable practice to pay DEI facilitators tens of thousands of dollars for sessions where they tell people: Shut up you racist?

But another disturbing aspect of Sarkonak’s reporting is this: “Nobody from TDSB interjected at any point to defend Bilkszto and stop the DEI trainers from berating a staff member, according to the court filing.”

Worse, Sarkonak reports, “After the class, a TDSB superintendent even thanked the KOJO Institute in a tweet for ‘modelling the discomfort administrators may need to experience in order to disrupt (anti-Black racism).’”

As if that wasn’t enough, Bilkszto was then harangued by superiors for his “white male privilege.”

Not surprisingly, considering he stood alone, was belittled by the moralists and betrayed by his bosses, Bilkszto went on sick leave. But the events plagued him, said his family.

“Unfortunately, the stress and effects of these incidents continued to plague Richard. Last week he succumbed to this distress,” read a statement by the family released last Thursday by Lisa Bildy, his lawyer.

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  1. Jamie Sarkonak: Toronto principal bullied over false charge of racism dies from suicide
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Corporate Canada and many civil institutions pay out millions to get someone to tell their employees how racist they are. And, unless you are Richard Bilkszto, employees sit there and take it.

Meanwhile, other actors in this appalling tragedy thrive. The KOJO Institute appears to have received at least $100,000 from the federal government for offering three courses. But its list of clients reveals its reach to be long and extensive in Canada: TD Bank, the National Ballet School, Loblaws, the Ontario government, the RCMP, the CBC, Rogers, school boards across Ontario, and many others.

Sheryl Robinson Petrazzini, the TDSB superintendent who thanked KOJO for “modelling discomfort,” has since gone on to join Ontario’s Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board as director of education.

The woke agitators might say that one man’s death means nothing when you are dismantling white supremacy and the patriarchy. But don’t listen to them.

Poet and cleric John Donne wrote in the 17th century that no man is an island.

“Any man’s death diminishes me/because I am involved in mankind./And therefore never send to know for whom/the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Richard Bilkszto stood alone. And in the end he couldn’t endure. But what might have happened if one person had stood with him? Just one?

It is to be hoped that Bilkszto’s sacrifice serves as an example to others. And if we find ourselves not brave enough like Richard Bilkszto to stand up to the woke zealots, then let us pray we at least find the courage to stand next to people like him.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.