Talking to a teacher who says critical race theory infiltrated her school district

And Arkansas's copy-cat effort of Texas's notorious SB8

A longtime English teacher in Providence, Rhode Island named Ramona Bessinger has made waves in recent months, ever since she first came out to describe how her school district has been “infiltrated” by Critical Race Theory. She said important books were removed from her classroom, like Shakespeare, Elie Wiesel and Martin Luther King Jr., and that she was left with only stories that had an “oppressed-oppressed” narrative.

"I consider the American story one of triumph," Bessinger told Fox News in an interview about the changes. "People overcome things … We are victorious. We are like the greatest nation on the planet. I feel very proud to be an American… And previous books that we had in the classroom represented that."

Bessinger’s since gone on Tucker Carlson, she’s called on state lawmakers to investigate her school district for its race + diversity lessons, and her claims that Providence Public Schools scrapped their Holocaust studies were even just repeated by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem at a forum with the Republican Jewish Coalition. Despite the significant media attention she’s garnered, no outlet deemed it necessary to verify anything she’s said.

In The American Prospect I talked to Bessinger, as well as other English teachers and leaders in the school district about what’s actually been going on. You can read that story here.

It’s been a bleak few months for abortion rights, and news at the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t inspire more hope. Rewire News, a nonprofit site focused on reproductive health issues, asked me to look at how activists on the ground in Arkansas were preparing for the possibility that lawmakers there might introduce a copy-cat bill of Texas’s SB8, the notorious law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks and allows any citizen to sue those who help a pregnant person get the procedure.

(Last month the national anti-abortion organization, Americans United for Life, ranked Arkansas as “the most pro-life state” in the country for the second year in a row.)

I spent some time in November reporting on this, and yesterday, the copy-cat bill was indeed introduced in a new Arkansas special session nominally dedicated to passing income tax cuts. We posted the story today. To excerpt one part:

Karen Musick, the co-founder and vice president of the Arkansas Abortion Support Network, an all-volunteer nonprofit that helps Arkansans access abortion care, said they’ve definitely seen an uptick in donations since Texas SB 8 was passed but that their attention has largely been focused on organizing volunteers.

“People have really come out of the woodwork and said, ‘My home is available if someone needs a place to stay, if someone needs help getting to another place I will take them,’” Musick said. “We’re collecting all these people who have benefited from abortion care in the past and want to do as much as they can now to ensure the next generation has access too.”

Musick said that while there’s less they can do to stop the current legislature from passing new restrictions, they can at least focus on organizing people. “Our job is to forge as many contacts as we can,” Musick said. “We need to build a base of transportation volunteers, escort volunteers, money and counseling volunteers.”

You can learn more about the Arkansas Abortion Support Network here, and you can read my full story on the politics here.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’m grateful to all who help make this kind of reporting possible.

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