Tensions flare outside Ottawa school board meeting amid gender and washrooms discussion

Tensions flared Tuesday night outside an Ottawa school board meeting as trustees heard delegations about gender and washrooms in schools.

More than 200 people were turned away from the meeting after several speakers signed up to discuss transgender students’ use of washrooms.

Many of those people rallied outside the board office during the meeting, with police forced to separate the two sides. Many brought signs reading ‘Trans rights are human rights,’ and other messages in support of transgender students.

The controversy began when parent Nick Morabito signed up earlier this month to speak at the board. In his remarks, he began raising the issue of transgender students using girls’ washrooms. An OCDSB policy gives students the right to use the washroom they feel the most comfortable with.

Trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth cut Morabito off and called his remarks transphobic.

Morabito was back at Tuesday’s board meeting, speaking along with several other delegations.

Despite the clashes outside, the meeting itself was calm. The board put measures in place for safety, including limiting space to 75 members of the public, banning signs and erecting dividers separating the public from the trustees.

“It’s much more likely for a trans woman to get assaulted in a washroom especially if they are forced to go to a men’s washroom,” said Phoebe Qiao, a trans woman. “If they’re concerned about young girls potentially getting assaulted in restrooms, then they shouldn’t force people like me in with cis men.”

Morabito says his issue isn’t about trans rights, but rather about washroom safety.

“They need to retrofit the school bathrooms, they need to come up with private floor-to-ceiling stalls they need to do something to make it more amenable to all the students rights,” he told CTV News before the meeting.

The OCDSB says 95 per cent of its schools have gender neutral washrooms.

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