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Oklahoma teacher resigns, citing state law requiring teachers to censor books in classroom libraries

Summer Boismier, who was an English teacher at Norman High School, told CNN that before the start of the school year, English teachers in the district were asked to review books in their classroom libraries to see which ones might “cause challenges,” in relation to an Oklahoma law that restricts teaching about race and gender.

Teachers, including herself, often personally fill and fund classroom libraries, which she called an “absolutely vital” resource, she said.

“I’m paying for these books. I’m putting books on my shelves that I think would not only be appealing to students, but would center stories that have traditionally been left out of the official ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum,” said Boismier Wednesday.

Oklahoma’s HB 1775 is intended to end discrimination, according to the bill. If an educator incorporates into his or her curriculum teachings that “an individual, by virtue of his race or sex, bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other members of the same race or gender” or that “an individual, by virtue of race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, consciously or unconsciously,” they could be suspended or have their license revoked, depending on the law.

According to Boismier, teachers were asked to either wrap books they thought might be in question, turn them over so that the spines were facing inward and the title of the text was not visible, or to cover them with butcher paper, for example.

Boismier decided to cover the books, she told CNN. She also labeled the covered books with the title “Books the state doesn’t want you to read” and placed a QR code pointing to the Brooklyn Public Library on the paper covering her books, she said.

She added that she also added a label to the QR code that read “Definitely do not scan!”

“I had seen other teachers online talking about this, that the library offered all students aged 13 to 21 in the United States access to a free e-library card that would give them access to the curriculum. books not banned from the library,” Boismier said.

“The concern then became that this, at least in my class, was a political stunt and a public display. And I want to be clear, I was told to cover my books,” she said.

School district officials said in a statement that a parent raised their concerns with them and they have looked into the situation.

“The concern centered on a Normandy public school teacher who, during school hours, made personal and political statements and used his classroom to make a political demonstration expressing those views,” officials said.

Boismier told CNN the district said officials believe the label on the QR code somehow makes it off limits and we don’t want to encourage students to break the law.

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“The state does not want you to have access to these texts, these texts which center LGBTQ+ perspectives, which center BIPOC perspectives, which I believe absolutely deserve a place on our reading lists, in individual programs, which should be centered and protected, because they have historically been erased,” Boismier told CNN.

She said that after the first day of school on August 19, she was told she would be placed on administrative leave and not to come to school the following Monday.

The school district denied that Boismier had been furloughed.

“Like many educators, the teacher is concerned about censorship and the removal of books by the Oklahoma State Legislature. However, as educators, our goal is to teach students to think critically, not telling them what to think,” school district officials said.

The statement said officials expected Boismier to return to class on Wednesday and that she was not fired, suspended or placed on administrative leave.

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“But, unfortunately, we understand that the teacher has publicly expressed his intention to resign,” the district said.

Boismier said she thought district officials wanted her to say she made a mistake, which she said she didn’t want to do.

“Me commenting on the climate of censorship and the chilling implications of a denial of free speech and freedom of association – me commenting on this is absolutely a political choice. I stand by that,” he said. – she told CNN, adding that she thinks classrooms are political. the spaces.

“I want to be clear too; there is a difference between politics and partisanship,” she said. “I therefore take umbrage and challenge claims that educators should not bring their politics into the classroom.”

She added that the new law is designed as a trap that prevents teachers from doing their job.

“It’s intentionally designed to stifle the conversations we need to have in the classroom, about systemic inequality, about privilege,” she said. “It is my desire, and the main goal I have as an educator, to make my classroom as inclusive as possible.”

Boismier said she doesn’t think she will apply to work in another school district because there is no school in the state that would work with her core beliefs.

CNN has reached out to professional educators at Norman, the teachers’ union representing Boismier, for comment.

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