A scholarship launched to honour the memory of Toronto educator Richard Bilkszto is now up and running. 

Established by friends and family of the principal who took his own life last year, the Richard Bilkszto Award and Scholarship is currently open for applications and seeks to honour exceptional educators and support aspiring teachers.

It offers $500 to teachers who demonstrate qualities exemplified by Bilkszto, including dedication to excellence in education, a commitment to equality of opportunity, and devotion to students’ well-being. 

In tandem, the Richard Bilkszto Scholarship, valued at $1,000, will be awarded to an undergraduate accepted at an Ontario teachers’ college, with an emphasis on upholding principles such as freedom of expression, equality of opportunity and excellence.

“With these awards, we hope to recognize achievement and inspire future leaders in the education profession, both of which were very important causes for Richard,” said Natasha Mansouri, chair of the Friends of Richard Bilkszto board.

The announcement is accompanied by ongoing controversy about the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate suicide of the Toronto District School Board principal.

Controversy arose following Bilkszto’s death, stemming from a court claim filed in April against the Toronto school board. 

Bilkszto alleged abusive treatment, bullying, and harassment by diversity, equity and inclusion trainer Kike Ojo-Thompson, reportedly hired by TDSB education director Colleen Russell-Rawlins and her supporters.

Audio recordings from April and May 2021 sessions have surfaced supporting Bilkszto’s claims. During these sessions, Ojo-Thompson repeatedly labelled Bilkszto’s criticisms as upholding “white supremacy.”

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) later classified the treatment as “egregious” and abusive.

Despite the official condemnation, concerns arose as contracts with Bilkszto were terminated, and he was not considered for other positions within the TDSB. 

Lisa Bildy, a lawyer representing Bilkszto’s family, has emphasized the role of stress and ongoing harassment from the TDSB in contributing to the late principal’s decision to take his own life.