Students want consequences for trustee after tweet about transgender people

TORONTO – A dozen Toronto high school students are striking back at a Toronto District School Board (TDSB) school trustee over some of his controversial tweets.

They students have urged the board to take some kind of action against Sam Sotiropoulos, the trustee for Scarborough-Agincourt, and presented a committee with a petition signed by more than 200 students, backing their position.

Georgia Koumantaros, a 16-year-old student at Malvern Collegiate Institute said some of Sotiropoulos’ tweets as atrocious.

“Mr. Sotiropoulos was using the TDSB hash tag to spew these derogatory, discriminatory remarks,” she said.

The students from Malvern Collegiate, Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute are appalled there’s been no action taken in the wake of Sotiropoulos’ tweets.

The students initially wanted the board so suspend Sotiropoulos, but legally they cannot do that.  The students say any action would be good, and they would like it if he made a full apology

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Another student from Malvern Students Against Sexual Stereotypes said the tweets have affected students within the school.

The students said if they sent similar tweets they would likely be suspended. Speaking for the group, Koumantaros told a TDSB committee that there should be consequences for Sotiropoulos.

Sotiropoulos attended the meeting by phone and asked what rule he had violated. He reiterated that he has a right to his opinion.

“You are allowed to have your opinion,” Koumantaros said.  “Go home to your family, say whatever you want. Go to your friends. Whatever you want, but when you bring the TDSB and you negatively impact the climate of every single school in the TDSB, that’s where the issue is, when you hashtag the TDSB and use the user name trustee Sam.”

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Sotiropoulos said he has already been exonerated from wrongdoing. He pointed out the board has not taken any action in the matter and a letter from the board’s lawyer also found nothing wrong.

The letter from TDSB General Counsel Tony Brown concluded “…any formal process to censure the trustee opens the door to accusations of censorship.”

Sotiropoulos alleged the students could be part of a larger agenda against him.

“Might be a move of desperation on behalf of certain activist teachers, unions and the media even and it is disappointing to me that they continue to use students as political pawns.”

He made a similar comment during the meeting, which prompted an immediate response from Koumantaros.

“Mr Sotiropoulos, I find it quite offensive that you think I cannot form my own opinion and that my opinion may be of one of my teachers.  I honestly think that is the most belittling, degrading thing you could do.”

Sotiropoulos has said repeatedly that he had to study the issue further before forming an opinion on transgender people. However he said he still doesn’t have an opinion, having had to temporarily set aside his research in order work on his reelection campaign.

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