LEVY: Controversial Ottawa school trustee banned from meetings for her bad behaviour
LEVY: Controversial Ottawa school trustee banned from meetings for her bad behaviour

It took a mere hour Tuesday night for Ottawa public trustees to decide that controversial and often volatile trustee Nili Kaplan-Myrth breached the board’s Code of Conduct.

Although integrity commissioner Suzanne Craig’s 188-page report carefully and thoroughly set out the reasons for the infamous trustee’s breach, I suspect all 11 trustees who voted to sanction her were simply tired of her perennial antics and the shadow she casts on the board.

It took somewhat longer for the trustees to decide on sanctions – which were eventually whittled down to a three-month ban from sitting on five committees (it was originally going to be six) to three months plus a ban from attending the January 2024 board meeting.

Board vice-chair Cathryne Milburne – in moving the motion to sanction Kaplan-Mryth – said the level of respect at the board is not what it should be.

“That means treating the world with dignity … we collectively can do better,” she said.

Kaplan-Mryth did not attend the meeting in person, claiming on X that it was not “physically safe” to do so.

Most trustees appeared to no longer buy her claims – not even her once closest ally, trans trustee Lyra Evans. The exception was trustee Justine Bell, who argued the board should go soft on her punishment because she’s “been living with incredible events and traumatic experiences for months.”

After the meeting, Kaplan-Myrth tweeted a variety of messages, contending, as she has for months, that she’s being punished for speaking up about toxicity at the board and for being a victim of antisemitism – proving yet again that she is not cowed by this very public slap on the wrist and does not get it.

She has also repeatedly indicated that she has received antisemitic messages and threats for her outspokenness.

As someone who has fought antisemitism for 14 years and been the subject of a variety of antisemitic messages and attacks, I doubt it’s as bad as she makes it out to be. In fact, I resent that she’s using this to excuse her bad behaviour.

According to Craig’s report, the code breach stems from Kaplan-Myrth’s conduct during and after another special Sept. 11 board meeting – at which another complaint against her was being considered. 

She was let off from that one (in my view, that only emboldened her to continue her toxic behaviour).

According to Craig’s report, at the Sept. 11 meeting she shouted out at her colleague, Donna Blackburn, “You have had it out for me since Day One.”

Kaplan-Myrth also took exception that she was called a “white woman attacking a black woman (trustee)” – noting she was a Jewish woman “who has received daily antisemitic death threats for standing up for health and safety.”

As Craig contends, there are “approved meeting procedures” a trustee can use when they are offended or believe themselves to be victimized, belittled and the subject of discrimination.

“The way forward is not to shout, post on social media or personally attack others,” she wrote.

The integrity report pointed out that Kaplan-Myrth also violated the code by behaving badly (my words) in interactions with the media following the Sept. 11 meeting.

The report said she ignored the security plan put in place by the board staff to ensure her safety before, during and after the special meeting.

She went to a room not designated as a “safe space” for her, blocked the door and, “with a raised voice,” demanded that Trustee (Donna) Blackburn and all members of the media leave the room, except for those journalists with whom she wanted to speak.

“It was unclear why Trustee Kaplan-Myrth felt her media interviews should take precedence over those of other trustees,” Craig wrote. “If her concern was for her safety, she had been provided a dedicated safe space.”

The integrity commissioner said the trustee essentially dismissed the “professional expertise” of those who set out to ensure the safety of board facilities and those within them.

Craig also took exception to Kaplan-Myrth’s social media posts following the meeting which she said “contributed to conflict rather than resolution of issues with her trustee colleagues.

“Trustee Kaplan-Myrth’s actions show that she is not willing to consider a path towards reconciliation… she engages in threats and intimidation rather than listening and attempting to understand an alternate viewpoint,” the integrity commissioner wrote.

In her report Craig quotes extensively from a Sept. 13 article by my True North colleague Elie Cantin-Nantel on the events of the special meeting in which he interviewed trustee Donna Dickson about her complaint.

Dickson said in that article that the administration, the director and the chairman at the time, Lyra Evans, chose “not to follow through” on her concerns even though it was clear that a “strong majority of the board” agreed that Kaplan-Myrth’s actions were “unbecoming of a school trustee.”

Kaplan-Myrth has only been in the job for one year but the rabid masker has created so much dissension with her bad behaviour – taking away from the mission to deliver quality services to its 78,000 students.

One could say the board emboldened her by allowing it to continue on for so long.

However, I doubt very much this will stop her toxic behaviour.

It has always been and will forever be about her.

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