Teacher calls for investigation into school district’s handling of lessons on race

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – A Providence teacher is calling on Rhode Island lawmakers to investigate Providence Public Schools’ handling of race and diversity lessons. 

Ramona Bessinger tells ABC6 News that other Providence teachers are reaching out to her about affinity groups for teachers on race, and supplementary teaching materials from an organization called Learning for Justice that uses controversial words, dealing with race, on their website.  

One of the words is “whitopia,” which is defined as “an area sought out by whites to avoid diversity and problems associated with city life.” 

“Is there ever a place to teach the vocabulary ‘whitopia’? Absolutely not. This is ridiculous,” Bessinger said. 

According to Bessinger, the teachings from Providence schools, for teachers themselves, aren’t any less controversial. 

“White teachers were separated into one group, black teachers separated into another group, where we could talk about our bias in the classroom,” Bessinger said. “Quite frankly that is more decisive and racist than the allegations or contention that we are racist.” 

The president of the Providence Teachers Union is appearing to support the groups. In a post on Twitter, this past week, there’s a post stating in part: “white educators may find a lot of meaning in forming their own groups to discuss how to be effective allies or how to understand white privilege.” 

The account seemed to be inactive on Monday. 

Victor Morente, a school district spokesperson spoke to ABC6 News saying,

“The portal referenced is used for the district’s diversity training which is required of all staff. PPSD serves an incredibly diverse student population where approximately 90% of students are of color and 55% come from homes where English is not the primary language. The District is supportive of an environment that is inclusive, relevant, and engaging to all students. As for the affinity groups, participation is optional for staff.”

ABC6 News reached out to the head of Providence Teachers Union and a spokesperson for the school district, but didn’t get a response  

Categories: News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island