A Toronto school board and an education minister stated Thursday that they will investigate a professional development program after a former principal committed suicide as a result of a lawsuit in which he claimed mental suffering from antiracist trainings and the backlash that followed.
The sessions incorporated critical race theory themes.
Before his death, former principal Richard Bilkszto, 60, sued the Toronto District School Board for emotional distress after attending a seminar where he was accused of being a racist.
In his case, Bilkszto claimed that Kike Ojo-Thompson, who runs the KOJO Institute, stated that Canada is racist and has “never reckoned with its anti-Black history.”
According to the lawsuit, Bilkszto was punished for appearing to degrade a Black woman when he disagreed with the instructor and criticized her views.
“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.
Bilkszto did not directly sue Ojo-Thompson; rather, the suit was addressed at the district.
She has rejected the charges in FAIR’s complaint and did not reply to Fox News’ request for comment right away.
The principal also said he was labeled a “White supremacist” for holding similar views.
The impact from the training triggered more concerns, and the family believes the harsh environment took a major toll on Bilkszto’s mental health.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce called Bilkszto’s claims “serious and disturbing” on 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.”
Following his death, his family issued a statement in which they blamed the principal’s emotional turmoil on the district’s KOJO training.
KOJO, who led the program, is an equality consultant who promotes critical race theory. CRT believes that society is biased against some groups based on their skin color.
It dismisses the concept of meritocracy as a “myth,” and divides races into privilege categories, with White people being unduly privileged.
Using this lens, its original thinkers felt that only modern discrimination could challenge the deeply rooted systemic oppression that they believed was purposefully integrated 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.”
Other KOJO CRT examples include the company’s presentation deck on adopting an equity agenda, which attacks “Eurocentric/Anglocentric curriculum,” “assimilationist culture,” and “school disciplinary policies.” The PowerPoint deck implies that institutions, such as the educational system, can be used to impact society and the community of the area.
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.”