An Ontario principal has taken his own life amid a lawsuit with his school board after he was allegedly shamed and berated during a hostile diversity training session.
Richard Bilkszto, a former Toronto District School Board (TDSB) principal, died by suicide last week due to the “stress and effects” of a 2021 incident when Bilkszto attended a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) course for TDSB administrators.
Bilkszto alleged he was bullied by course instructor Kike Ojo-Thompson, CEO of the KOJO Institute, who implied he was sympathetic to white supremacism because he argued Canada is a less racist country than the US.
Bilkszto, who had a 24-year career with the TDSB, launched a lawsuit against the district for not defending him during the DEI training session. The day after the session, Bilkszto was further berated by his school board bosses for displaying “white male privilege.”
On Thursday, Bilkszto’s lawyer released a statement saying that the dedicated principal had “succumbed to his distress.”
“With sorrow, it is announced that Richard Bilkszto passed away suddenly last Thursday, July 13 at his home in Toronto. He was 60 years of age. He leaves his distraught mother, brother, nephews, niece and many dear family and friends whose lives he touched over the years.”
According to the family’s statement, “A later ruling by the WSIB [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board] confirmed he had been the subject of workplace bullying after a series of ‘Equity Sessions’ coordinated by the TDSB and provided by the KOJO institute.”
The worker’s compensation board awarded Bilkszto loss of earnings benefits for May–July 2021 for chronic mental stress.
The WSIB decision, obtained by the National Post, stated that DEI trainer Ojo-Thompson set out to “cause reputational damage and to ‘make an example’” of the principal.
Bilkszto’s family wrote that the principal advocated for a pro-human approach to education, and he was “concerned with fairness and respect for all learners – a mission from which he thought public education was straying.”