A public school teacher in Oklahoma has resigned from her job after she was criticized for telling her students how they could access banned books.
Summer Boismier, a teacher of English at Norman High School, was placed on leave and later left the district shortly after the school year began. Her resignation was sparked in part by a 2021 Oklahoma law that prohibits public schools from teaching anything that makes a student “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their sex or race. The result of this law is that a number of books have been banned in the district.
Perhaps to make a statement about the wave of book censorship being championed by Christian nationalists nationwide, Boismier put large pieces of paper over bookcases in her classroom reading, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” She also referred students to the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, which, for a limited time, is giving students aged 13-21 online access to material that has been removed from other schools under a project called “Books Unbanned.” A parent complained about this display, leading to Boismier’s resignation. (The parent has also called for her to be criminally prosecuted.)
Getting Boismier out of the classroom isn’t enough for some people. Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s education secretary and a candidate for state superintendent, has demanded that Boismier’s teaching certification be revoked, which would make it impossible for her to teach at any public school in the state. In a letter to the State Board of Education, he accused Boismier of giving students access to “banned and pornographic material” and asserted, “there is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom.”
Boismier, who has received threats and been labeled a “pedophile,” told a local TV station that she fears for her safety.
Oklahoma, like other parts of the country, faces a teacher shortage. Forcing a teacher out of the classroom because she dared to tell her students that they could access books from a public library is unlikely to improve the situation.