Teachers and parents have made national headlines in Rhode Island in 2021, after standing up against being forced to participate in and teach lessons in CRT. Much of the attention came after coverage by Legal Insurrection. A teacher was suspended after objecting to the new lesson plans; a mother was sued over public records requests. A bill was introduced to ban CRT in public schools in Rhode Island, but it failed to advance. The university system does not have a statewide mandate for colleges to incorporate CRT; however, it has dedicated to creating new policies that are crafted through an equity lens. Several schools, including URI and others, have declared themselves so-called anti-racist campuses.

K-12 Education

Middle school teacher Ramona Bessinger wrote an article for Legal Insurrection in which she expressed shock over the sudden changes to her middle school history and literature lessons coming into the 2021-22 school year. (https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/07/im-a-middle-school-teacher-and-see-how-critical-race-curriculum-is-creating-racial-hostility-in-school/) After raising her concerns publicly and testifying at a meeting of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), she was subjected to harassment by students and fellow teachers for her efforts, and suspended from her job in October 2021. (https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/07/im-a-middle-school-teacher-and-see-how-critical-race-curriculum-is-creating-racial-hostility-in-school/) (https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/10/under-new-critical-race-curriculum-white-people-historic-figures-all-look-like-buffoons-or-aggressors-providence-ri-teacher-ramona-bessinger/)

Nicole Solas, a mother of a kindergartner, has made a large number of public records requests to determine the level of CRT in her school district. Many of those requests have been denied outright, and now the school district and teachers union have jointly filed a lawsuit against her. (https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/10/ri-teachers-union-opposing-nicole-solas-anti-slapp-suit-we-didnt-want-to-sue-her-we-had-to-do-it/)

A state rep filed a bill to ban CRT in public schools in Rhode Island, but it has failed to advance. (https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/04/ri-state-rep-patricia-morgan-keep-critical-race-theory-out-of-schools-it-is-a-step-backwards-for-our-country/)

Judicial Watch revealed the existence of a 53-page CRT training manual for teachers in the Westerly School District. (https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/10/judicial-watch-obtains-critical-race-teacher-training-guide-for-westerly-rhode-island/)

RIDE dedicated itself to using an equity lens when determining when and how to return from COVID shutdowns and recover lost instruction time. (https://www.ride.ri.gov/InsideRIDE/AdditionalInformation/News/ViewArticle/tabid/408/ArticleId/730/RIDE-Announces-the-Learning-Equity-Accelerated-Pathways-LEAP-Task-Force-to-Analyze-and-Address-COVID.aspx)

Higher Education

The Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (RIOPC) formed an advisory committee in 2021 to set ongoing policies for colleges and universities in the state. Among the goals laid out were the equity of outcomes for black and brown students:

Topic #1: Equity in Rhode Island’s Postsecondary Education System

While equality means treating every student the same, equity refers to making sure every student has the support, resources, and opportunities to be successful. To create equity in education, systems must be structured to ensure every student has an equal chance for success. (https://www.riopc.edu/page/_AC2021/)

RIOPC brought in Scott Jenkins as a member of this panel. Jenkins represents the Lumina Foundation, which dedicates itself to improving college outcomes using a racial justice perspective:

As Lumina Foundation works to increase the nation’s education attainment rates, we embrace a dual commitment – to quality credentials and to racial equity. In short, we seek to ensure that degrees and other education credentials reflect the learning necessary for workplace success and informed citizenship. At the same time, we work to ensure that our systems of education beyond high school produce fair and just outcomes for people of color. (source: https://www.luminafoundation.org/resource/luminas-commitment-to-educational-quality/)

In response to a reportedly racist social media post in October 2021 about an NFL player, allegedly by a student at the University of Rhode Island, URI announced it would investigate the student for potential disciplinary action, and used the occasion to reaffirm its status as an “anti-racist” institution. (source: https://news.yahoo.com/university-rhode-island-investigating-racist-150640412.html)