Separating Fact From Fiction: RIDGE Network Hosts DEI Workshop Series

Building Inclusive Communities and Schools, a program of six trainings, offers information and conversations to enable equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
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RIDGE Network, a Bucks County nonprofit organization of concerned Pennridge residents striving to shine a light on issues impacting students and teachers in the Pennridge School District, will host Building Inclusive Communities and Schools on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The goal of the forum, the first in a six-part series of workshops, is to empower individuals to speak out against bias when encountered, and to act as allies to marginalized groups.
Discriminatory practices targeting persons of color and the LGBTQIA community in the Pennridge School District increased significantly following the COVID pandemic and the rise of the Bucks County chapter of the extremist anti-government group Moms for Liberty.

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In August 2021, the Republican-controlled school board dismantled the district’s diversity, equality, and inclusivity (DEI) program, the first in a succession of many biased actions toward marginalized student groups.

At the time, former Pennridge Superintendent David Bolton spoke out against the board’s action. “This has not been the district’s recommendation, the administrative recommendation, in terms of a step for moving forward,” Bolton said, according to WHYY.

Jane Cramer, a volunteer with RIDGE Network, said her DEI journey began when the school district held forums on the initiatives that were designed to create a welcoming environment for every student.

“My children are Asian-American, so this was a topic of interest to me,” Cramer said. “I was shocked by the behavior of some community members during the meeting. I tried to share my experience as a parent of children of color and was interrupted multiple times.”

READ: Civil Rights Complaint Filed Against Pennridge School District

Cramer contends that at least one local group is echoing national Republican, MAGA, and Moms for Liberty rhetoric to deliberately sow division within the community with the aim of consolidating political power by vilifying certain populations.

“Our community, country and world are changing rapidly. The internet and social media have changed how we interact with the world and get information,” said Cramer. “All of this change can create uncertainty and fear, and extremists take advantage of that.”

Serita Lachesis, who teaches at a Friends school, has been presenting DEI workshops for over half a decade.  Lachesis grew up during the 1990s in what she calls a “big unit.”

“I talk about this a little bit in the presentation. We stood out everywhere because I’m white, my parents are white, but most of my siblings are black and biracial,” Lachesis said. “I got a perspective that was unique during that time. I saw the racism. I saw when I walked into a store, people responded to me differently than my brother.”

Approximately six years ago, Lachesis said she heard someone was looking for a workshop coordinator who had first-hand experience and could lead a discussion about white privilege.

“This is my story. I think I can do this,” is what Lachesis recalls thinking at the time. “It was powerful to me.”

Seeing herself as an ally, Lachesis believes she can be “the space where people can ask these questions. Very well-meaning people that might be terrified to ask questions in another space.”

READ: In Pennsylvania, Serpents and School Boards and the Independence Law Center, Again

Describing the first workshop as very basic, Lachesis said the emphasis is to provide an understanding of what DEI is and what it isn’t.

The workshops are to educate and not to shame. “If you shame people, nothing’s ever going to happen. If you yell louder than someone, nothing, no change is ever going to happen,” she said.

The Beacon asked both Cramer and Lachesis about the benefits of DEI programs in educational and community settings.

“We hear from former Pennridge students that they experienced some culture shock at college,” Cramer said. “DEI helps prepare students for working and living in a country that is becoming more diverse. The Pennridge community is definitely becoming more diverse as we transition from a rural farm community to a suburb,” she added.

Lachesis added, “At its core, DEI is about being fully welcoming to people. And if you do it well, everybody’s uplifted.”

To register for the Building Inclusive Communities and Schools workshop visit or email RIDGENetwork4U(at)

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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