Oklahoma teacher who allowed her students access to banned books under investigation: NPR
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Oklahoma’s top education official is planning to revoke her credentials after a former teacher tried to give students access to books that a new state law could ban in schools.
in the a letter he tweeted on WednesdayOklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters has asked the state board of education to revoke the teaching certificate of Summer Boismier, a former Norman High School teacher.
Days earlier, Boismier had resigned her position at the school following a complaint from a parent who suggested Boismier had made political comments in the classroom.
According to that Norman transcriptBoismier draped paper across her classroom’s bookshelves with the message, “Books the State Doesn’t Want You to Read,” in response to HB 1775, a state law enacted in May that restricts what public school educators can do about race and can tell gender.
Boismier also posted a QR code that directed students to the Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned project, which gives young people across the country access to books that may be banned in their schools.
Republican-run states like Oklahoma are increasingly banning certain books or trying to restrict discussion of issues like race and sexuality in schools.
Boismier declined NPR’s request for comment on Walter’s request to revoke her teaching certificate.
She previously told Gothamist that posting the QR code for her 10th grade students was an attempt to allow them to read materials that have been restricted by the state.
“I saw this as an opportunity for my kids, who had their stories hidden, to circumvent this policy,” she said. “Nowhere in my instructions did it say we can’t put a QR code on a wall.”
Wes Moody, a spokesman for Norman Public Schools, said the problem wasn’t focused on the Boismier QR code displayed in the classroom, but didn’t specify what the problem was. A statement from the district claimed that Boismier had made “personal political statements” and put on a “political display” in the classroom.
But Walters suggested in his letter that Boismier gave students access to “prohibited and pornographic” material – without giving details – and cited this as justification for revoking their teaching certificate. “There’s no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom,” he said, adding that officials “have to make sure she doesn’t go to another county and do the same thing.”
Walters did not respond to NPR’s request for an interview.
Rob Crissinger, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Education, told NPR that the department has no plans at this time to seek a revocation of Boismier’s teaching certificate.
“There is a process in place and we know that Norman is currently reviewing this matter at the local level,” Crissinger said. “Based on their review we will proceed accordingly but there is no reason to speculate about anything relating to Norman Public Schools until their local review is complete.”
Moody said the Norman High School students had never had access to pornographic material, adding that the district had no response to Walters’ letter.
The district said in its statement on Boismier’s resignation some colleagues shared concerns about HB 1775. “Like many educators, the teacher has concerns about censorship and book removal by the Oklahoma state legislature,” the statement said. “However, we want, as has always been our expectation, for our classrooms to be places where ALL students feel welcome.”
If Boismier were faced with a disciplinary action from the state school board, she would be the first teacher to do so for violating HB 1775, according to NPR affiliate station KOSU.
Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson said in a statement to NPR that the library continues to support Boismier.
“Among the democratic principles on which both our nation and public libraries were founded is the right of every individual to seek information from all angles,” Johnson said. “The Brooklyn Public Library stands by Summer Boismier and all who champion free speech, freedom of thought and the right to read.”
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