Oklahoma Teacher Quits After Being Disciplined for Banned Books Sign

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One Oklahoma teacher learned the hard way that the state’s abbreviation does not mean it is OK to disobey education law.

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English teacher Summer Boismier, 34, was investigated by administrators at Norman High School after a parent alleged Boismier violated state law that restricts teaching about race and gender. Her slick attempt at using reverse psychology to circumvent a law she disagreed with backfired.

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The Washington Post further reported:

Even before the first day of the school year at Norman High School, Boismier suspected her personal classroom library would get her in trouble by running afoul of that law, so she covered her books with butcher paper. But she added a touch of defiance, scrawling a message in permanent marker across the paper.

“Books the state doesn’t want you to read,” it said.

Boismier, 34, included a QR code that her sophomore English students could scan with their phones, taking them to an application for a Brooklyn Public Library card. The site said that, even if they lived out of state, teenagers could still access materials as part of the library’s Books Unbanned project, “a response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books tackling a wide range of topics from library shelves.”

Hours later, a parent complained to school officials about Boismier, accusing her of violating a new state law limiting public school lessons or materials that lead students to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or gender.

Oklahoma’s law is particularly severe, The Washington Post reported. Teachers deemed to have violated the law can lose their teaching licenses.

In the first half of last year, Boismier and her colleagues monitored the legislation closely as it worked its way through the Oklahoma legislature, worried “because essentially what it attempts to do is legislate feelings and legislate intent.”

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Even though the new law took effect months before Boismier started her first year at Norman High, she told The Post that she mostly ignored it and taught as she had in her previous seven years in a classroom.

But things changed late last month when the state Board of Education downgraded two school districts’ accreditations for violating the new law, Boismier said. The moves sent a warning to teachers in other districts across the state, she said.

“It was intended to send a message, and message received,” she added.
Because of the new law and the “serious legal consequences for teachers and districts,” administrators told teachers to review their classroom libraries before the first day of school to “ensure age-appropriateness,” asking them to vouch for the works or “provide at least two professional sources verifying their appropriateness,” a district spokesperson told The Post in a statement.

“We have not banned any books or told teachers to remove books from their classrooms,” spokesperson Wes Moody said in the statement.

Boismier said she was one of the teachers who asked for guidance on personal classroom libraries. She’d spent her own money to build hers into a collection of more than 500 books, many of the texts selected to broaden lessons beyond official reading lists she said are often stacked with works written by “mostly old, dead White guys.”

Teachers were asked to either box up the books that might trigger a complaint, turn them so their spines faced inward or cover them, she said. Choosing the latter option, Boismier got out the butcher paper to hide the books from the very students she would have lent them to in years past.

She included the QR code along with a caption: “Definitely don’t scan this!”

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