Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s top education official called for a high school English teacher to lose her state teaching certification because she shared with her students a QR code to the Brooklyn Public Library’s banned books collection.
Summer Boismier was removed from the classroom after the first day of school last month, when she covered her bookshelves with butcher paper and posted the QR code on the covering. Oklahoma, like many Republican-controlled states, passed a law last year banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in public school classrooms.
Boismier, who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma, was offered her job back but ultimately chose to resign. Boismier told VICE News that there were “some fundamental ideological differences” between herself and the district, and that the new Oklahoma law “created an impossible working environment for teachers and a devastating learning environment for students.”
Boismier did tell VICE News, however, that she planned to keep teaching. But on Wednesday, Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters—an official in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet, who’s likely to become the state’s next superintendent of schools after the November midterms—called for the Oklahoma State Board of Education to revoke Boismier’s teaching license.
“There is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom,” Walters said in a letter directed to the state Board of Education. “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.”
“Teachers are one of our state’s greatest assets and it is unfortunate that one of them has caused such harm and shame for the entire profession,” Walters said.
Republicans have frequently claimed the books they’re banning are “pornographic” in nature, though the nonprofit Oklahoma news outlet The Frontier reported earlier this year that the dozens of books being investigated by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office include “Of Mice and Men” and “Lord of the Flies,” as well as books that explore topics of sexual and gender identity and racism.
One title on the Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” list is “Gender Queer,” a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe. A federal judge tossed a lawsuit in Virginia earlier this week that sought to ban Barnes & Noble from selling the book on obscenity grounds—an indication that the right-wing war on books perceived as “liberal” and “woke” has stretched beyond classroom libraries and into bookstores.
Oklahoma’s State Board of Education has so far this year downgraded the accreditation of two Oklahoma school districts for alleged violations of the law, taking such an expansive view of their powers under the anti-CRT law that it’s irritated some Republicans who voted for that law.
Boismier declined comment to VICE News Wednesday, saying she’d been “advised” to not comment further on Walters’ letter.
But in an interview last week, Boismier said that “parents are being manipulated” by Oklahoma Republicans. “I’ve been called an indoctrinator, a woke leftist, a groomer, a pedophile, all within the last several months,” she told VICE News.
“They don’t want these conversations happening,” Boismier said of Republicans seeking to ban books. “They don’t want critical thinkers, they want American exceptionalism and this whitewashed version of history that does not require them to interrogate their own privilege.”
“That’s dangerous when you’re the one in charge.”
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