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This article was published 3/10/2014 (1969 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg family is the target of an alleged bully waging a campaign against their daughter because she is transgender. Only in this case, the alleged bully isn't another kid, it's an adult woman.
The Burgos family has long asked the school division to do something about it, but has now submitted a police complaint and resorted to a formal human rights complaint, citing the school division.
"This is where we're shocked: Why did it get to this, to go to the police?" said the girl's mother, Izzy Burgos.
Izzy and her husband, Dale Burgos, filed the complaints after a month of incidents in which the woman, the mother of another student, allegedly confronted her, her daughter, her son and other parents.
"She's been talking to everyone in the community and she says she feels bad, but I don't believe that because she's still doing it," Burgos said.
At first, the issue was which bathroom her daughter, Isabella, 8, was to use.
Now it's turned into a campaign over the issue of transgender individuals.
"My daughter is transgender. She's out and she's proud. It's hard. The community loves her. Her school loves her and the other students love her.
"One parent can do this, can make her want to hide? I don't think this woman is even aware of the damage she's doing," Burgos said.
Isabella, meanwhile, said she's lost her friendship with the woman's daughter, who is in her Grade 3 class at Joseph Teres School in Transcona.
None of the other students has bullied her, but now because of publicity, the child said going to school is getting harder.
"A lot of people have seen me on TV, and they're asking me questions, like 'Why are you a girl now?' " Isabella said. "I feel confused."
The Burgos family says it will be up to the police and the Manitoba Human Rights Commission to take over.
The couple said they can't understand why the school didn't shut the alleged bullying down when it first started a month ago, rather than trying to accommodate both her concerns and the rights of the Burgos family.
Other parents have told the family she's also lobbied them with transgender criticism outside the school.
"The parents have walked away, but she's very dominant, abrasive and intimidating," Burgos said.
The trouble started Sept. 11, when the woman confronted the child at the school and demanded she stop using the girls washroom, Burgos said.
When Burgos picked up Isabella from school the same afternoon, she said the woman confronted her daughter again, then her and her 18-year-old son outside the principal's office.
"She started screaming in Bella's face and I just froze. She was saying "I don't give a f " and there's a kindergarten class watching all this. I waited for the secretary in the office to intervene. She put her head down. Here she is, she stuck her finger out and she's yelling at a transgender child, then at my gay son and she's yelling about bathrooms," Burgos said.
After that, the Burgoses were told Isabella could no longer use the girls washroom.
Telling the principal her whole family felt traumatized hasn't settled the issue.
This week, the same woman confronted the 18-year-old son, who went to pick up Isabella and her brother, Gavin, 10 from school, Burgos said.
"The human rights commission called me today, and they said they're taking it up with the school, with mediation," Burgos said.
Meanwhile, Burgos said her family has heard back from the police, who've told them an adult who confronts a child could be charged with harassment or a hate crime.
Kelly Barkman, superintendent and CEO of the River East Transcona School Division, confirmed the woman at the centre of the family's complaints has been contacted about the comments she made to Isabella and her family.
For the school, the issue comes down to its students' safety.
Barkman did not mention the human rights complaint or the possibility of a police investigation.
He described the the issue as an internal matter.
"We are dealing with both parents to ensure our students are safe. Every student needs to feel safe in our buildings," Barkman said.
To that end, the school division is now working to set up an education seminar at the school with the Rainbow Resource Centre, a non-profit human rights group for transgender, gay and lesbian individuals, he said.
The division's policy is for transgender students — Isabella is not the only transgender student in the division — to use a gender-neutral washroom, Barkman added.
"I think it's important to say our stance is we are supplying reasonable accommodations as outlined in the Manitoba Human Rights code. That's where we're at," the superintendent said.