Parents Testify In Opposition to Proposed Law Advancing DEI Ideology In Rhode Island Public Schools

2024-03-14 16:00:56

Yesterday, March 13, 2024, Rhode Island’s House Education Committee held a hearing on H7722, a bill to promote “the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion principles into school curriculum and also in hiring practices for education staff.” Representative Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson introduced the bill, which so far has received scant attention in the media. Five witnesses testified during the meeting, three in opposition and two in support.

We reported on the bill earlier this week, here. The proposed legislation directs the state department of education to develop programs and materials “on how schools can best incorporate and integrate instruction on and principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”), into a school’s curriculum.” Although the law will leave it up to local school committees whether to include those materials in their curricula, parents are concerned they will be under tremendous pressure to do so.

In fact, DEI materials have been in Rhode Island’s schools for a while now. The campaign to make an already diversified curriculum even more “inclusive” began several years ago, as veteran middle and high school teacher Ramona Bessinger explained here. She described a syllabus rich in “diversity, perspective, truth, and rigor,” including works like House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, essays by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and poetry by Maya Angelou alongside the classics traditionally taught in school. It worked for Bessinger and worked for her students.

That is, until the day she came to school to find it all thrown into the dumpster. In its place, teachers were given a “new, racialized curriculum and materials focused almost exclusively on an oppressor-oppressed narrative,” creating racial tensions among students and staff where none existed before, Bessinger said.

It was a purge.

And it’s not only happening in Rhode Island:

It’s almost as if that were the endgame all along—to make the curriculum more “inclusive” by destroying it. That way no one (except normal white men) will feel left out.

In her testimony opposing the bill yesterday, Bessinger described how a DEI-driven curriculum destroyed the racial unity it promised to promote:

[*Transcript is auto-generated and cleaned up, but may contain errors.]

Since the 2020-21 school year, a drastic DEI-driven academic takeover has taken place in K-12 schools here in Rhode Island.

Family, students, and teachers were told that DEI curricula would close all racial disparity and academic gaps in our schools.

It has failed. The DEI initiative brought into Rhode Island schools has been disastrous and racially divisive. Racial tensions have never been greater since Angélica Infante-Green’s DEI-driven takeover of our schools.

School absenteeism, discipline, anxiety, violence, and teachers fleeing the profession is at an all time high and all of this correlates to RIDE’s [Rhode Island Department of Education’s] DEI agenda.

We need oversight and accountability for the damage inflicted by DEI in schools.

DEI has nothing to do with racial tolerance in closing teaching and learning gaps.

It is politically motivated takeover of our schools where historical fact is being erased. The Holocaust is either being diminished or erased. White children are being shamed. Christians discriminated against. Anti-American sentiment is praised. And racial activism is encouraged.

These new renditions of classic literature reflect racially divisive political ideology. Pass this bill and you’ll be codifying K-12 racism and division and animus forever.

Other opponents pointed out that DEI programs come at a cost to students and their families. Amy Rodrigues, chapter chair of Washington County’s Moms4Liberty, said the DEI bill is “grift” that would divert resources toward empowering DEI coordinators, and away from where they’re really needed—teaching students to read and write: “Bringing identity politics into every program, course, subject, and policy only serves to divide and rob our children of a proper education.”

But supporting DEI shows you care about others, Representative Megan Cotter argued during the hearing:

If everyone practiced more empathy with their interactions with others, wouldn’t that change society for the better? Don’t we want to live in a community where we have compassion for those that are different than we are?

You can’t legislate feelings, though, Rodrigues pointed out. “We already do have empathy. I don’t think it needs to be regulated.”

In support of the bill, policy analyst Elijah McLean spoke on behalf of United Way of Rhode Island. He said DEI “allows students to learn about their neighbor. It allows students to learn about the real realities of demographic populations.”

Lisa Marie Leavitt, a mother of seven from North Kingstown, was having none of it. “Our children deserve a learning opportunity that is free of frivolous and unneeded nonsense.”

Another mother, Susannah Tingley, said DEI is already present in Rhode Island’s schools, and it’s not working:

I’m a mom of three, and I’ve seen our education system change drastically from my first to my last. Our kids aren’t learning. …They’re disengaging from the politicized climate and curriculum.  The K-5 Great Minds curriculum by Witt and Wisdom, used in many Rhode Island schools, is filled with dark, age-inappropriate language, conflict, and race-shaming. The social-emotional lessons teach children as young as five to be social justice activists. History books lack rigor now, clarity, and political neutrality. DEI does not allow differing opinions or equal opportunity and excludes dissent.

“We don’t need more DEI, we need it out of the schools.”

The bill has been held for further study.


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Parents Testify In Opposition to Proposed Law Advancing DEI Ideology In Rhode Island Public Schools


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