A Toronto school board and an education minister announced they are launching investigations Thursday into a professional development training after a former principal died by suicide following a lawsuit in which he alleged emotional distress from antiracist trainings and the fallout that followed.
The sessions included concepts from critical race theory.
Before his death, Richard Bilkszto, a 60-year-old former principal, sued the Toronto District School Board for emotional distress after he attended a training where he was accused of being a racist.
Bilkszto alleged in his lawsuit that Kike Ojo-Thompson – who runs an equity firm called the KOJO Institute – said that Canada was racist and has “never reckoned with its anti-Black history.”
When Bilkszto disagreed with the instructor and challenged her comments, he was condemned for appearing to undermine a Black woman, the lawsuit said.
“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” Ojo-Thompson said, according to the lawsuit filed by the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
Ojo-Thompson was not directly sued by Bilkszto – it was directed at the district.
She has denied the allegations in FAIR’s lawsuit and did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The principal also alleged he was called a “White supremacist” for sharing his beliefs.
The fallout from the training catapulted into further issues relating to the matter, and the family believes it was a hostile environment that took a serious toll on Bilkszto’s mental health.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce called the allegations raised by Bilkszto “serious and disturbing” Thursday.
A spokesperson told Fox News Digital that his staff will launch a review and present action items to ensure “this never happens again.”
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to Richard’s family and friends, as we remember an educator that truly went above and beyond for his students,” he added. “No staff member should ever be subject to harassment while in their place of work.”
The family released a statement following his death, listing the district’s KOJO training as part of the principal’s emotional distress.
KOJO, who ran the training in question, is an equity consultant which promulgates critical race theory. CRT holds that society is rigged against certain groups on the basis of skin color.
It decries the idea of succeeding by merit as a “myth,” and ranks races into privilege categories, with White people considered unfairly privileged.
Using this lens, its original theorists believed that only present-day discrimination can combat the deeply embedded systemic oppression they believe were intentionally built into every societal structure and system.
“We know that anti-Black racism is operating within education because of the outcomes we see for Black students,” Ojo-Thompson said. She further claimed that racism is embedded within all systems, and offers consulting to corporations, governments, etc.
During a follow-up session a week later, Ojo-Thompson allegedly recalled their disagreement from the first session and used Bilkszto’s efforts to challenge her claims as a “real-life” example of someone supporting White supremacy.
“[N]avigating the whiteness of the education system is a daily hardship,” Ojo Thomson has said. “The dominance of whiteness is not natural but the result of the legacies. Equally, the subordination of Blackness is also not natural.”
As other examples of KOJO’s CRT, the company’s slide deck on instituting an equity agenda criticizes “Eurocentric/Anglocentric curriculum,” “assimilationist culture,” and “school disciplinary policies.” The slide deck suggests that institutions – such as the educational system – can be wielded to influence society and the district’s community.
It asked, “How are institutions leveraging their power and proximity to inform the community’s narrative?” KOJO also calls for the elimination of disparities through “[w]ork that is focused on the systemic and structural context.”
Ojo-Thompson also believes in another idea central to critical theory, which is that individuals can belong to multiple categories of oppressed groups. The term for the concept is called “intersectionality.”
“With every identity that is subordinated due to the legacies, we face discrimination and oppression in a way that is interlocking. Each form of oppression impacts the others,” Ojo-Thompson said.
The Toronto district was contacted for comment, and referred to a previous statement, in which they announced the “investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic passing of Richard Bilkszto.”
The district will be using an outside agency, King International Advisory Group, to conduct its investigation.
“Our intention is for this investigation to be conducted in a professional, sensitive and respectful manner,” the district said.
The KOJO Institute previously released a statement, which said, “The death of Richard Bilkszto is a tragedy and all of us at KOJO Institute offer our condolences to his loved ones.”
It denied all allegations and added, “This incident is being weaponized to discredit and suppress the work of everyone committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“KOJO Institute welcomes Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s review of this matter and will cooperate fully with Ministry officials. We believe the Ministry of Education is best positioned to investigate this matter to get to the bottom of what transpired at the Toronto District School Board after our workshop concluded over two years ago.”
The anti-Black racism workshop at the center of Mr. Bilkszto’s false claims took place in the spring of 2021. It was only in June of 2023, through media inquiries seeking our comment, we learned Mr. Bilkszto filed a lawsuit without serving it against the Toronto District School Board.”
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