October 2022 Church & State Magazine

Okla. Teacher Loses Job For Referring Students To Banned Books Site

  Okla. Teacher Loses Job For Referring Students To Banned Books Site

A public school teacher in Oklahoma has lost her job after she told students how they could read books online from a public library in New York.

Summer Boismier, a teacher of English at Norman High School, left the district after a complaint was lodged against her. Boismier gave students QR codes they could use to access books at the Brooklyn Public Library, including titles that have been banned in the Norman schools.

A 2021 Oklahoma law 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. In response to the law, some school districts in Oklahoma began removing books from the curriculum, placing them on restricted access or subjecting them to reviews.

Boismier put large pieces of paper over bookcases in her classroom reading, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read” and provided the QR codes. The Brooklyn library created the codes as part of a project called “Books Unbanned” to give students access to material that has been removed from other schools. A parent complained about this display, leading to Boismier’s resignation.

Ryan Walter, 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 been subject to threats and claims that she is a “pedophile,” told a local television station that Walter is overreacting.

“How are you going to retain teachers when you are challenging their certification for simply providing access to information?” she asked.

On its “Wall of Separation” blog, Americans United criticized officials for attacking Boismier.

“Oklahoma, like other parts of the country, faces a teacher shortage,” observed the post. “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.”

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