A principal who sued the Toronto District School Board after being bullied and accused of “white supremacy” during an “anti-racism” training has died by suicide.
Richard Bilkszto, 60, had worked for the school district for 24 years. He retired in 2019 but continued working as a contract fill-in principal.
Bilkszto sued the school district earlier this year after being targeted during two “anti-racism” trainings in 2021 for challenging the speaker’s assertions that Canada is more racist than the United States.
In his lawsuit, he said his reputation was “systematically demolished” after he was singled out by speaker Kike Ojo-Thompson, founder of the KOJO Institute, and accused of supporting white supremacy for defending the nation.
“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?” she said, according to Bilkszto’s lawsuit.
The next week, at the opening of the second session, the speaker referred to the incident as a “real-life” example of resistance in support of white supremacy.
The Star reports, “Bilkszto allegedly suffered ‘severe emotional distress’ and had to take a stress leave as a result. He filed a ‘mental stress injury’ claim to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which allowed the claim and provided compensation for two months of lost earnings.”
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board agreed with Bilkszto and wrote in their decision that they were “satisfied that the conduct of the speaker on April 26, 2021 and May 3, 2021 was abusive, egregious and vexatious, and rises to the level of workplace harassment and bullying.”
Bilkszto’s lawyer, Lisa Bildy, announced his death in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.
With his family’s permission, I am very saddened to release this statement about the passing of my client, Richard Bilkszto. pic.twitter.com/mNzMAxkp5V
— Lisa Bildy (@LDBildy) July 20, 2023
Bildy wrote about praise he received during his career, adding, “Sadly, Richard experienced an affront to that stellar reputation in the Spring of 2021, causing him severe mental distress.”
“Unfortunately, the stress and effects of these incidents continued to plague Richard,” Bildy continued. “Last week he succumbed to this distress. His family and friends have been left reeling and wishing they could have had the chance to convince him that he was loved, respected, and needed here. May he rest in peace.”
The school board released a statement on Friday, but did not mention the lawsuit or what had been done to him.
“Our hearts go out to Richard’s family and loved ones,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird wrote in an email. “He was a strong advocate for students — particularly those in adult and alternative education — and worked tirelessly to create an environment that fostered student success for students of all ages.”
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