Summer Boismier faces backlash from the State of Oklahoma Education Secretary over banned books.
Since 2021, dozens of bills have been passed throughout the United States regarding what one can and cannot teach in the classroom. Oklahoma recently became one of these many states with the passing of HB 1775.
This anti-critical race theory bill restricts what educators can discuss in schools, especially regarding race, ethnicity and gender.
On August 24, we saw the first fallout of this bill when a teacher in Norman resigned from her position.
Summer Boismier, an English teacher at Norman High School, received instructions from her district to rid her classrooms of books that were not conducive to the guidelines of the 1775 bill. She told CNN that her district required English teachers to report the contents of their libraries so they could review them and decide which materials students could have access to. Regarding her library, Boismier asserted to CNN, “I pay for those books. I put books on my shelves that I think not only would be appealing to students, but center stories that have traditionally been left out of the official ELA [English Language Arts] curriculum.”
Instead of removing the books from her classroom entirely, she covered them in butcher paper and labeled them “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” She also included a QR code on each book that her students could scan and use to access them for free in their own time. These QR codes gave her students access to resources from a program called “Books Unbanned” through the Brooklyn Public Library. This program provides free library cards to people all over the nation so they can access books that may not be allowed in their classrooms. Under these QR codes she wrote, “definitely don’t scan this!”
Boismier also provided clarification regarding her instructions from the district: “And I want to be clear, I was told to cover my books.”
In an email to Changing America, Wes Moody, a spokesperson for Norman public schools, said a parent reached out to the district about Boismier and a “potential issue regarding Oklahoma HB 1775.”
The parent’s concern regarded the use of classroom time to make political statements and personal assertions.
Moody later stated, “Like many educators, the teacher has concerns regarding censorship and book removal by the Oklahoma state legislature. However, as educators it is our goal to teach students to think critically, not to tell them what to think.”
According to Boismier, school district officials claimed the QR codes made the books seem forbidden and that they did not want to encourage illegal actions by students.
Boismier explained that the school forced her to take administrative leave and rebuked her for using class time to make political statements, though Moody denies Boismier was put on leave or suspended.
While Boismier was instructed to return to the classroom Wednesday following her alleged administrative leave, she instead resigned.
This bill is an example of a larger trend in the US, but HB 1775 is especially harsh in its penalties as teachers can lose their licenses.
The Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters called for the revocation of Boismier’s teacher’s license, stating “There is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom. Ms. Boismier’s providing access to banned and pornographic material to students is unacceptable and we must ensure she doesn’t go to another district and do the same thing,”
Following this, Walter’s received pushback from the Oklahoma Education Association who called his statements and bill interpretation inaccurate, while urging him to focus on the real issues in the classroom.
Through the next year we expect to continue to watch how these bills shape modern education, impacting educators and students alike.