A Connecticut high school English teacher is under investigation by the Southington school board for providing students with a controversial vocabulary list the first week of class. Parents confronted the school board regarding the three-page packet that addressed divisive political, gender, and racial topics.
Connecticut's WFSB-TV reported that school board members claimed they were previously unaware of the worksheet.
The vocabulary list defined the terms "social justice," "marginalization," "Indigenous/American Indian," "cisgender," "cultural appropriation," "institutional/structural racism," "gaslighting," and "transgender."
The high school teacher's packet also defined "white privilege" as "societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise the same social, political, or economic circumstances."
It included a category labeled, "Concepts we can always keep in mind when conversing" that read, "It's important to talk about differences" and that it is "valuable to see race."
The worksheet explained that "racism is a systemic issue." It read, "If you look the other way or deny that these systems exist, you are part of the problem. You can know in your heart that you don't hate anyone but still contribute to their oppression."
"No individual is personally responsible for what white people have done or the historical decisions of the American government, but you ARE responsible for whether you are currently upholding the systems that elevate white people over people of color," it continued.
The English teacher's worksheet also claimed that the term "spirit animal" has been appropriated by white people and therefore is "super offensive" to Native Americans.
Thursday evening, parents joined the Board of Education meeting to share their reactions to the teacher's lesson material.
Jenny Cinquemani stated, "We are a Puerto Rican family and we have family members, some that are darker, some that are lighter."
Cinquemani's daughter was the one to inform the school board about the packet. The mother said she does not believe the teacher meant for the worksheet to be harmful, but that the content was "divisive" and shut down necessary classroom conversation.
Board Vice Chair Joseph Baczewski expressed frustration over the teacher's material. He said, "I read the worksheet. Do I agree with it? Absolutely not."
"For all of the crap going on in the world right now, this is it? The first week of school to start off negatively. It's troublesome," Baczewski said.
The school board is currently investigating the incident. WFSB-TV reported that the Connecticut Education Association has not replied to its request for comment.