Rhode Island school holds celebrity event for those who 'identify as students of color or multiracial'

The Wheeler School announced event for the 'Students of Color affinity group'

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The Wheeler School in Rhode Island sent an invitation for those who identify as "students of color" to attend a celebrity event, raising concerns among parents about racial discrimination.

An email obtained by Fox News Digital shows one of Wheeler's teachers announcing the event for the "Students of Color affinity group." 

It reads: "The Students of Color affinity group will meet tomorrow at lunch in the GCA - 2nd floor lounge area. Lunch will be provided. We'll have a chance to meet and talk with our special guest Karyn Parsons who is an actor and author. If you identify as a student of color or multiracial, please join us!" Two Wheeler parents confirmed their children received the email.

(iStock)

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Wheeler's head of school, Allison Gaines Pell, did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment. Parsons – one of the special guests named in the invitation – was an actress on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and currently chairs the Sweet Blackberry Foundation, which did not respond to Fox News' request for comment.

The school's Instagram account appears to show Parsons reading to the lower school. That photo appears to show White students in addition to students of other races or ethnicities. The email Fox News obtained was purportedly directed at students in the middle school (6-8th grade). It's unclear who attended that particular session. 

Signs opposing Critical Race Theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board headquarters, in Ashburn, Virginia, on June 22, 2021.

Signs opposing Critical Race Theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board headquarters, in Ashburn, Virginia, on June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

In interviews with Fox News, two Wheeler parents said their White children had received the email invitation, despite the focus on those who identify as students of color.

This isn't the first time schools have been criticized for appearing to hold events for specific racial groups. So-called "affinity groups" have emerged in different parts of the U.S., purportedly offering environments geared toward people who identify as non-White.

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Parents Defending Education, which initially obtained the Wheeler email, previously filed a civil rights complaint against a Massachusetts school with a similar invitation. "*Note: This is a safe space for our Asian/Asian-American and Students of Color, *not* for students who identify only as White," a March 2021 email read. Earlier this week, PDE announced that it had reached a settlement in which it ended the school's affinity groups.

According to multiple parents, Wheeler has seen controversial content surrounding race. Fox News obtained an invitation for an "Anti-racism Working Group for White Parents/Guardians."

An invitation for a "Working Group for White Parents/Guardians" at The Wheeler School. 

An invitation for a "Working Group for White Parents/Guardians" at The Wheeler School. 

The invitation states that the event will involve a discussion of "Nice White Parents," a New York Times podcast that suggests White parents are behind public schools' problems.

A description of that podcast reads: "If you want to understand what’s wrong with our public schools, you have to look at what is arguably the most powerful force in shaping them: white parents."

The invitation adds that the series "considers how to build an integrated school system and what gets in the way using one New York City public school as a case study. The role of parents and their impact is deeply explored."

On the school's website, it touts its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.

"At Wheeler we focus on the whole child, which includes social and emotional development," a statement on its DEI page reads. 

"Research has shown that children become better critical thinkers, better students, and better people if they engage with people who are different from them, including in socially significant ways, and this is especially true for members of majority groups, who tend to see themselves reflected in their surroundings more than they see people who are different from them. We also recognize that our current generation of students is going to enter an adult world in which they will be expected to be able to work successfully in environments with all different kinds of people."

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The school also features "microaggression" reporting. It reads: "Wheeler is building an anti-racist culture of belonging and accountability, where people can show up being their true selves and is working to model anti-racist practices in our institutional and personal behavior. Each division at Wheeler has developed a process to follow when a student or employee has a microaggression to report." (emphasis the school's).

"This process is part of an effort to support members of marginalized groups to feel safe in the Wheeler community and to actively address and interrupt microaggressions, harassment, discrimination, and other misconduct. Our microaggression policy is grounded in the lived experiences of community members who have traditionally been marginalized at Wheeler and beyond and our commitment to addressing and reducing racial grievances in our community. Wheeler’s culture is growing to be truly more representative, so people of color and other marginalized members of our community have organizational support and feel safe."