An Oklahoma English teacher says she has resigned after being reprimanded by her high school for providing students with a QR code to access banned books, following the adoption of state legislation that censors school reading material.
Summer Boismier told HuffPost that she resigned effective immediately Wednesday from Norman High School, located south of Oklahoma City, and “would do what I did again... in a heartbeat” because of restrictions that were placed on classrooms by House Bill 1775.
“[The Norman Public Schools district] essentially asked me to commit to keeping politics out of my classroom if they were to reinstate me,” she said in an online message. “It is my firmly held belief that education is inherently political; therefore, being apolitical is both an impossibility and (in of itself) a political stance.”
Boismier, in an earlier statement to Fox 25, blamed Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Republican state leadership for creating “an impossible working environment for teachers and a devastating learning environment for students.”
“For the second year in a row, students at Norman High will be without a certified English teacher for a substantial amount of time,” she told the local outlet.
HB 1775, which Stitt signed into law in May 2021, limits how schools are able to discuss race and gender in classrooms. Critics say the legislation aims to ban conversations about critical race theory, which examines the systemic nature of racism in society.
Boismier confirmed to HuffPost that she had provided students with a QR code linking to a Brooklyn Public Library website that offers teens free access to banned books.
She said a parent had complained to the district about her potentially violating HB 1775 on the first day of classes Friday.
A week before classes started, she tweeted photos of what she said were her classroom’s bookshelves covered with red paper displaying the message “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.”
In the tweet, Boismier said her students could no longer access texts by people of color or LGBTQ authors “because state leadership has spent the last year loudly labeling these books and their stories/perspectives as pornography, as indoctrination.”
A representative for Norman Public Schools confirmed to HuffPost that district officials reached out to the teacher — whom he didn’t identify by name — after a parent expressed concern about the educator’s behavior and its relation to HB 1775.
The teacher, “during class time, made personal, political statements and used their classroom to make a political display expressing those opinions,” said Wes Moody, the executive director of communications at Norman Public Schools, in a statement Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
The teacher was expected to return to class Wednesday and at no point was the person terminated, suspended or placed on administrative leave, Moody added. He later confirmed the teacher’s resignation.
Boismier she said she’s received “a groundswell of support” from school colleagues across the state and outside groups, including the Brooklyn Public Library, amid the news about her.
“All things considered, I am doing okay. Although, I suppose I’ll need to revive my LinkedIn account,” she said.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Oklahoma affiliate, which has advocated against HB 1775, criticized the legislation Tuesday, tweeting that it “will continue to impact the integrity of Oklahoma’s education system for years to come.”
“The First Amendment protects the right to share ideas, including the right of students to receive information that builds knowledge,” the organization wrote.
“Schools serve as an essential space to explore and encounter new perspectives free from politically motivated censorship, and yet we continue to see book bans that effectively erase the history and lived experiences of women, people of color, and 2SLGBTQ+ people,” it added, referring to LGBTQ and other sexual and gender identities.
Late last month, Oklahoma’s State Board of Education disciplined two school districts for violating HB 1775. The board voted to lower the accreditation status of Tulsa Public Schools and Mustang Public Schools as punishment, Fox 25 reported.