A former Oklahoma educator has spoken out about being forced to leave her profession because of a state law that bans certain books.
At the beginning of the current school year, Summer Boismier, then 34 years old, was working as an English teacher at Norman High School, located just south of Oklahoma City. Boismier told CNN that English instructors in the Norman Public Schools district had been directed to go through their classroom libraries and identify any books that would “elicit challenges” to a state statute that bans the teaching of critical race theory before the start of the new school year.
Boismier said that teachers were advised to hide the books by covering them, placing them in boxes, or turning them around so that their backs were towards the inside of the shelves, to prevent pupils from seeing the books. Boismier decided to put a butcher paper cover on the books and label them “Books the State Doesn’t Want You to Read.” She also decided to include a QR code for the Brooklyn Public Library on the book jackets. She scrawled, “Definitely don’t scan this!” below the QR code in her hand. The library’s “Books Unbanned” program and library card sign-ups were available to students as soon as they walked through the doors.
The Brooklyn Public Library said earlier this year that it will begin giving digital library cards to students aged 13–21 throughout the nation in response to the more than 700 pieces of legislation submitted or approved this year prohibiting or limiting educational materials. Wes Moody, the spokesman for Norman Public Schools, told Changing America in an email that a concerned parent had contacted the school system regarding Boismier and a “potential issue with Oklahoma HB 1775.” House Bill 1775 deals with Boismier.
Moody went on to add that the problem stemmed from Boismier’s decision to make political and personal statements during class time. “The teacher, like many other educators, is concerned about censorship and the removal of books by the Oklahoma state government.” Instead of telling students how they should think, it is our responsibility as teachers to foster in them a capacity for independent analysis.” the statement features a quotation from Moody.
Boismier told CNN that district officials said they didn’t want students to be encouraged to break the law since the label and QR code made the books seem illicit. The English teacher went on to state that she was put on administrative leave and admonished by administrators during a meeting on Tuesday for making a political comment in class. Moody denied that Boismier had been suspended or put on administrative leave.
Boismier told CNN that she was asked to return to the classroom on Wednesday but ultimately decided to quit. Multiple states have proposed or enacted laws restricting the teaching of critical race theory since 2021, according to the Brookings Institute. American institutions like the school system, the court system, the healthcare system, and the real estate market are all “laced with racism” due to the presence of discriminatory policies and practices. On the other hand, Oklahoma’s law is well-known for being harsh. The new regulation threatens to remove a teacher’s license if they are found to be using critical race theory in the classroom.
CNN, Rebekah Riess. “Oklahoma Teacher Resigns, Citing State Law Requiring Teachers to Censor Books in Classroom Libraries – CNN.” CNN, edition.cnn.com, 24 Aug. 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/24/us/oklahoma-teacher-resigns-race-and-gender-law/index.html.