A former principal for the Toronto School Board has committed suicide after a diversity training session in 2021 allegedly left him battling bullying accusations of white supremacy.
Richard Bilkszto took his own life July 13 after suffering more than a year of mental distress stemming from a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training in the spring of 2021, his lawyer, Lisa Bildy announced on behalf of his family.
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
The bullying allegedly began after Bilkszto defended Canada against statements made by the DEI trainer, Kike Ojo-Thompson, that Canada was a “more racist place than the U.S.” and that the country was a “bastion of white supremacy and colonialism,” the National Post reported. “At least [the U.S.] had a fighting posture against at least the monarchy, here we celebrate the monarchy, the very heart and soul and origins of the colonial structure,” Ojo-Thompson allegedly argued in the training, the outlet stated.
Bilkszto, who spent 24 years working within an inner-city school, didn’t think Ojo-Thompson’s assessment of Canada was accurate and 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,” Bilkszto stated, according to the National Post.
That defense left him facing allegations of white supremacy, with Ojo-Thompson and other diversity training facilitators allegedly berating Bilkszto during the training session, the outlet reported. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) thanked Ojo-Thompson’s KOJO Institute for the training and the confrontation with Bilkszto, stating it modeled “the discomfort administrators may need to experience in order to disrupt (anti-Black racism),” the National Post reported. (RELATED: ‘Oppressively White’: University’s Massive DEI Bureaucracy Still Not Enough For Student Activists)
A later ruling from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) found that Bilkszto had been a victim of workplace bullying ruling that Ojo-Thompson was “abusive, egregious and vexatious,” in her treatment of the former principal, according to the outlet.
Following his experience, Bilkszto began a civil lawsuit against the TDSB in the spring of 2023 and began advocating for people to come together through a more “equality-focused, pro-human approach,” Bildy revealed. Bilkszto also spoke out against TDSB’s use of a lottery system for specialized programs within the schools which “removed any consideration of merit” for approval.
“Ultimately, he was concerned with fairness and respect for all learners – a mission from which he thought public education was straying,” Bildy explained.
After 24 years of service within the TDSB where he was once considered a “leader amongst leaders in changing their lives”, the accusations and stress from the ordeal with TDSB and the KOJO Institute proved too much for Bilkszto, Bildy stated.
“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,” Bildy shared.