Students want TDSB trustee reprimanded for transphobic tweets

Oct 24, 2014 | News

By Vanessa Campbell

A group of secondary school students have submitted a 200-signature petition to the Toronto District School Board to get Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos suspended after making offensive comments towards the transgender community via Twitter.

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Georgia Koumantaros, 16, and Scott Phyper, 17, are both students of Malvern Collegiate Institute and members of the Malvern Students Against Sexual Stereotypes club. Yesterday, they attended a meeting where they submitted their petition to the board for review.

After initially being denied entry, the pair along with the rest of the club members, returned with the press and were let in.

“We got in, we told our story and we got people talking,” said Phyper.

And while their petition got board members talking, the result was just that. A conversation.

“Nothing happened. Nothing came of it. That was the main problem,” he said. “The reason we wanted to attend this meeting was because the elections are coming up and we wanted people to know who it is that they’re voting for.”

In Sotiropoulos’ tweets, he stated that he “reserves the right” to his own opinion and suggested that transgenderism is a mental illness. Since his initial statements, he has mentioned in interviews and on Twitter that he feels bullied by the comments of the public.

Koumantaros said that isn’t the intention of her petition at all and would like the opportunity to sit down and talk with him one day.

“The last thing I want is for him to feel bullied. I just want him to understand that this is a real issue. it isn’t about us against him, it’s about him re-thinking the way he says things or the way he presents himself on Twitter,” she said.

Shelia Cary-Meager, Trustee of Ward 16, which includes Malvern Collegiate said that many of the trustees disagree with Satiropoulos’ behaviour but that the board has done all it can do and that the rest is up to the province. She also mentioned that having an Integrity Commissioner would be helpful in this kind of situation.

“There’s little we can do to reprimand him,” said Cary-Meager, “He was taken to the ethics committee and they disapprove of what he’s doing but they’re not prepared to do anything about it.”

Sotiropoulos wasn’t available for comment with Humber News but in an interview with Global he refused to say much more than that he “reserved the right to have an opinion.”

His Twitter page indicates that he has no intentions of backing down and that he firmly stands by his beliefs. He also has a fair number of followers that seem to share the same views as him.

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“We’re supposed to make life better for students not worse. And if you’re going through a process of trying to find your identity and you have somebody on the sidelines saying you’re either nuts or wrong, that’s not good,” said Cary-Meager.