Sanctions imposed against Windsor school board trustee in reconvened meeting public weren't told about

Windsor police were called to the Greater Essex County District School Board office on Tuesday, June 25 to clear the gallery of attendees.  (Kathleen Saylors/CBC - image credit)
Windsor police were called to the Greater Essex County District School Board office on Tuesday, June 25 to clear the gallery of attendees. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC - image credit)

Public school board trustees in Windsor-Essex, Ont., imposed sanctions on trustee Linda Qin for code of conduct violations after coming back from recess from a session the public was not informed would continue.

Board chair Gale Hatfield told CBC News Wednesday the meeting concluded and sanctions had been imposed on Qin when the board reconvened in a separate committee room. The board recessed while police and security cleared the gallery after allegedly being disruptive.

Hatfield says the doors were left open. Members of the public nor the media were informed the meeting had reconvened elsewhere.

"The door to the room was left open, which is what we were required to do," Hatfield said.

"I didn't go back out to talk to the crowd because they were very threatening and I felt I didn't feel safe, so the police stayed there in the room with the crowd ...I didn't go in and address them."

Sanctions were imposed, Hatfield says, but she would not inform CBC News of what they were because Trustee Qin had not been informed as of Wednesday morning.

Hatfield says Qin was asked to re-join trustees in the meeting room but did not do so.

The meeting could not be live streamed but trustees made a recording of the latter portion of it, which would be published Wednesday afternoon, she added.

Police had been called to clear gallery

Police had been called to a meeting of the board Tuesday night after members of the public refused to leave the gallery during a session about Code of Conduct complaints.

The special meeting was held to determine whether Trustee Linda Qin was in breech of the board's code of conduct stemming from incidents last year that prompted four complaints.

But about an hour into the meeting, Hatfield ordered people to leave for disrupting the proceedings with applause, mutters and spoken comments.

"I have the authority under the Education Act. You've been disrespectful," Hatfield told the gallery amid scattered outcry.

"I'm going to recess the meeting for five minutes and I'm asking security to clean the clear the gallery."

Windsor police were called to the Greater Essex County District School Board office on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.
Windsor police were called to the Greater Essex County District School Board office on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Windsor police were called to the Greater Essex County District School Board office on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)

As many as seven police cruisers were present on scene but officers did not remove people from the school board building.

Instead, an officer informed the gallery the meeting had concluded and trustees, who were not in the room at the time, were leaving. Members of the public left gradually.

Jeremy Palko, a member of the group Action for Canada who came to support Qin at Tuesday's meeting, said he didn't feel the gallery's conduct warranted removal from the meeting.

"She could have said, 'OK, listen, there's a little bit of too much chatter in the background, [we're] having trouble hearing here,'" he said.

"If you allow a little bit, so that you don't end up blowing up the meeting in the way that it happened tonight."

Meeting held to consider Code of Conduct complaints

Trustees were there to consider a report penned by Gillian Tuck Kutarna from law firm Miller Thompson, investigating a series of four formal complaints made about Qin's behaviour and conduct at meetings and her remarks in the media.

The complaints were submitted by trustees LeClair, Nelson and Cooke.

In one complaint, trustee Christie Nelson says Qin accused a member of the board's policing in schools committee of bias against the police "without providing any evidence of such a bias." In this case, trustees said Qin was in breech.

"It was really offensive. I recognize the breech, I am sorry for it, I hope we can address it with those who were affected," said trustee Julia Burgess.

Trustee in breech for media interview

In another complaint filed by trustee Ron LeClair, trustees did not find Qin in breech in three of four incidents. But they did find her in breech for being in contact with the media without the approval of the board, choosing not to support the findings of the report.

According to the report, trustees are not authorized to speak on behalf of the board, but are permitted to speak to their own positions or experiences, provided their comments don't breech the code of conduct.

Members of the gallery left a public school board meeting after police were called and the meeting ended.
Members of the gallery left a public school board meeting after police were called and the meeting ended.

Members of the gallery left a public school board meeting after police were called and the meeting ended. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)

But the report also deals with comments from Qin that say trustees and the board are not tolerant of her language barrier, given English is her second language and that she often needs more time for formulate her remarks.

Findings 'predictable,' says gallery member

Palko, who attended to support Qin, says it was "interesting and ... somewhat predictable" that many of the complaints were not supportable.

"A lot of complaints they had in terms of taking to the media or how you talk, you know, maintained decorum, they have been guilty of themselves," Palko said.

"What they're doing to her is completely wrong. And this entire gallery of the 50 people who are here are just support her, not the other eight."

A final complaint by LeClair related to an interview and statements made by Qin in an interview with Rebel News.

"Trustees are expected to discharge their duties loyalty faithfully and partially in a manner that will inspire public confidence in the ability and integrity of the board," Burgess said. "In this case, she spoke to the media and spoke against decisions that were made, did not inspire confidence in the board and in public education.

"Assuming that our staff is grooming is egregious and expressing that is unbelievably hurtful to our staff."

The outcome of this complaint is not known, pending the publishing of board meeting video as the complaint was handled when the meeting reconvened in a separate room.