Ramona Bessinger Fights for Our Children

Parents Are Fighting A Racialized ‘Equity Audit’ In North Kingstown (RI) And So Far We’re Winning Equity Audits are the gateway drug to CRT: “The auditing company’s sole purpose is to SELL curriculum, to sell professional development, and to move their own army of teachers, administrators, curriculum materials, and political affiliates into the community and schools. The changes will damage schools, dismantle the faculty, and create irreparable harm to children.

My name is Ramona Bessinger, I am a mother and a teacher. I’ve been teaching for 23 years; over 12 years at Middletown High School, and 8 years teaching English Literature grades 6 through 12 in Providence, Rhode Island. My assignment for the past 3 years has been at the Middle School where I’ve witnessed the full rollout of the gender theory curriculum, and racialized curricula. It has been heartbreaking and disturbing to watch the complete destruction of our schools here in Rhode Island. Last July, I decided to sound the alarm at Legal Insurrection on the many divisive, harmful elements associated with Providence school districts takeover by the state, I’m A Middle School Teacher And See How Critical Race Curriculum Is Creating Racial Hostility In School:

This past 2020/21 school year was a sad and worrisome turning point for me as an educator. Providence K-8 teachers were introduced to one of the most racially divisive, hateful, and in large part, historically inaccurate curriculums I have ever seen in my teaching career. Yes, I am speaking about the controversial critical race theory that has infiltrated our public schools here in Rhode Island under the umbrella of Cuturally Responsive learning and teaching, which includes a focus on identities. You won’t see the words “critical race theory” on the materials, but those are the concepts taught. The new, racialized curriculum and materials focuses almost exclusively on an oppressor-oppressed narrative, and have created racial tensions among students and staff where none existed before…. Midway through the academic year, some students started calling me “America” because I was white. These students, whom I love, were turning against me because of my skin color. I don’t blame them, I blame the racial narratives being forced upon them in school. My story received wide attention, including in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Examiner, FoxNews.com, Breitbart, The Jewish Voice, The John DePetro Show, The Matt Allen Show, In The Dugout, Fox and Friends, Fox News America’s Newsroom, Fox Business, and even Australian TV.

I suppose it is safe to say I blew the whistle on what I believed to be a race-based political agenda that had made its way into Providence Schools. And I paid the price through retaliation and involuntary transfer to another school. At the time I was unaware of the same education trends occurring all over Rhode Island but specifically my son’s school and district, North Kingstown School District. Concerned for my son’s education, I began to ask reasonable questions regarding curriculum materials and gender theories at the high school. Over time, other parents in the community joined in the conversation and before you knew it, we had a grassroots parent-group that set out to get to the bottom of how this curriculum was making its way into our schools. What I learned was disturbing. North Kingstown Schools set up a DEI committee, a diversity equity and inclusion sub-committee that would make recommendations to the School Committee. Right away, I learned the DEI committee was setting out to bring in an outside Equity Auditing company to overhaul the school culture and curriculum. Equity Audits are the gateway drug to Critical Race-based racialization of curriculum, as I witnessed first hand in Providence schools. The Equity Audit advocated by the Democratic Town Committee, including NK School Board Member who opposes “colorblindness” and who wrote in support of the Equity Audit: After evaluating the two responses to our RFP, the DEI Subcommittee is recommending that NKSD contract with Public Consulting Group’s proposal, as written [archive], to conduct a full-scale DEI community assessment that will examine all aspects of the educational process including board policy, district programming, curriculum and instruction, human resource practices, budget allocations, and NKSD’s culture and climate. The audit as proposed would cost $73,250, and it is anticipated that we will be able to use Esser III funds to pay for this if approved. Knowing full well the colossal mess the Auditors had created in Providence and other districts across the country, myself and the other parents in our group set out to sound the alarm so that the community and educators could better understand the expense and harm the equity auditing company would inflict on children and the community. We wrote factual letters in opposition to the school committee approval of the audit, we posted all over social media, we laid out the evidence of districts that have performed audits and we analyzed the company’s very own proposal. Much of the information was concealed from us or redacted, so we used the website and letters to present our arguments. Speakers were limited to 3 minutes. Here is the statement I made at the school committee meeting: [if video does not load, click here I would urge you to table the DEI equity audit. The current approach from the DEI subcommittee, well intentioned no doubt, is flawed. You have no right to make such drastic permanent, social, cultural and academic changes to the schools here in NK. You have not provided metrics or rubrics or discussed how this audit will yield measurable outcomes. In fact there are no measurable outcomes from past audits except of course if you consider the failing schools around RI that conducted equity audits: school districts like Providence, Pawtucket and other urban communities where equity audits were suppose to provide the miraculous solution to close the gaps in reading, writing, math and science. Equity audits in urban communities have created a bigger academic deficit, racial divide, and a mass exodus of teachers leaving the profession. What is left is total destruction with children and families suffering worse than prior to the audit being conducted. Equity audits cost millions. The auditing company’s sole purpose is to SELL curriculum, to sell professional development, and to move their own army of teachers, administrators, curriculum materials, and political affiliates into the community and schools. The changes will damage schools, dismantle the faculty, and create irreparable harm to children. You claim to have data that supports the decision, but that is a lie. You have no data, and the data you are using is being interpreted to suit your political agenda. An example of this would be the RICAS scores. RICAS historically shows learning deficits; the purpose of examining the gaps or deficits is to provide DATA to schools so they can complete gap analysis and discuss with their TEACHERS and administration ways to close those gaps. You have no right to do that. NONE. Further, you have not been forthcoming with the expenses to North Kingstown residents: the expense does not stop at 73K, the expense will go into the millions as the company advances a “road map” with detailed costly proposed changes. Finally, after a rushed DEI move to advance the vote to the school committee, we prepared our speeches and prayed reason would prevail. At 10PM, after public comment the school committee voted to table the audit and send it back to the DEI subcommittee. The proposal can be modified and resubmitted by both vendors who bid on the project so we may be back fighting this issue again. The reasons were varied, but most significantly many people had written letters expressing concern over the fact that the 73K initial fee was truly the tip of the iceberg. The company would make changes and recommendations in the form of a “roadmap” that would cost families and educators millions and create irreparable harm to our schools. In particular, the anti-American, anti-Israel, gender theory, the hyper-sexualizatioin of children and racialized content concerned us all. We consider this a significant step forward for parents and children everywhere and hope this gives others hope that standing up for what is right sometimes has positive outcomes. We’re winning, so far, but we know the activists will be back, and so will we.

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