The York Region District School Board is giving itself extra time to decide how best to censure a controversial trustee whose comments in the Toronto Star suggested women are to “stay quiet in the kitchen.”
At a board meeting Tuesday evening, trustees discussed a report by the integrity commissioner, which found Trustee Elizabeth Terrell-Tracey’s comments “distasteful, derogatory, out-of-place, and offensive.”
Integrity Commissioner Sandhya Kohli concluded Terrell-Tracey violated the discreditable conduct provision of the Trustee Code of Conduct, which stipulates trustees should behave in a professional and civil manner. In her report, Kohli made various recommendations, including that Terrell-Tracey undergo training on how to behave in an ethical manner and on the ethical use of media and social media, make an apology to the public, and abstain from sitting on one or more committees for a period of time.
Kohli presented her findings Tuesday and trustees enacted a part of the Code of Conduct, which gives them extra days to review the report. They also asked Kohli to provide further clarification on the appropriate sanctions she recommended. Their decision will be presented at a special public board meeting March 18 at 6:15 p.m.
Terrell-Tracey was present, but abstained from the vote. On Wednesday, she told the Star she’s eager to put this matter behind her, saying “I just want to move forward.”
Kohli launched an investigation after receiving complaints about a story published in December. Star reporter Kristin Rushowy had reached out to Terrell-Tracey for comment following a board meeting where members of the public were demanding the new trustee’s resignation. The outcry was because of racist comments posted on Terrell-Tracey’s Facebook page during the election about her rival being an immigrant. (Terrell-Tracey says her account was hacked.)
At the time, Terrell-Tracey told the Star she’s “one of the boys and this is why they do not like me.”
“A person that doesn’t stay quiet in the kitchen is why they (the public) do not like me. I have many male qualities, that traditionalists do not like,” she told Rushowy via text message.
On Wednesday, the Star asked Terrell-Tracey about those comments and she said they “were taken the wrong way.”
“I didn’t mean to upset anybody in the community,” she said in a telephone interview. “It was only to explain why some people don’t like me.”
When asked why she thinks people don’t like her, she explained, “I kind of do my own thing and I’m independent.”
“Everyone is afraid to be my friend because then they’re going to be called a racist or a bigot or a sexist or a feminist. So, no one wants to be my friend, but then when I’m out everybody loves me and says ‘You’re doing good, you’re doing great, don’t listen to the media, it’s all about the hype.’”
Terrell-Tracey says her detractors are supporters of her rival, adding “Anybody who did not vote for me is against me.”
She said that since the Facebook comments surfaced in September she has “been living in paranoia” and received threats.
“The police have been involved, you have no idea what I’ve gone through. I’ve been in therapy … It’s been really difficult. I’m just trying my best not to quit.”
Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74