If your Banned Books Bingo Card had “disciplined for providing students with a QR code for a library,” then you correctly predicted the latest move against books that aren’t the Bible in the U.S.
This week, a high school teacher in Norman, Oklahoma, resigned after she was, by her own account, placed on leave because she provided her students with a QR code to the Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” site. The story was originally shared on Twitter by a KOKH FOX 25 reporter and has since garnered national attention, as school districts in red states continue to pass legislation that censors or bans books that cover race, sex, gender, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Summer Boismer, who’s been a teacher for more than a decade, told the Daily Beast that, ahead of the first day of school, she covered all the books in her class with butcher paper. She did so because Oklahoma’s recent law HB 1775 requires schools remove books that (conservative) school boards say are bad, restricting what high school students can or cannot read. Boismer gave her students the QR code as a way to open up access to such books. Nevertheless, on Friday, she said she was informed about an HB 1775 complaint against her, and that she had been put on administrative leave. She said she wasn’t allowed back into her classroom on Monday or Tuesday, and then submitted her resignation.
Boismer provided the following statement to KOKH FOX 25, which emphasizes how students won’t have a certified English teacher and calls out Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt:
“I have made the decision to resign from my position at Norman High School. I will say that the district did offer me back my job, allowing me back in the classroom as of tomorrow morning. However, there were some fundamental ideological differences between myself and district representatives that I just couldn’t get past. HB 1775 has created 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. The fault for that lies with Governor Stitt and Republican state leadership.”
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HB 1775 is Oklahoma’s version of Florida’s “anti-woke” legislation, both of which stem from Republican outcry over critical race theory—and both of which limit students’ ability to read about race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Among a list of guidelines, the bill states that schools cannot teach students that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” or that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.” God forbid students learn to empathize.
Norman Public Schools provided KOKH FOX 25 with its own statement, denying Boismer was put on leave or suspended:
“A concern centered on a Norman Public Schools teacher who, during class time, made personal, political statements and used their classroom to make a political display expressing those opinions. 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. We addressed the issue and expected the teacher to return to class as normal Wednesday. At no point was the teacher ever terminated, suspended or placed on administrative leave but, unfortunately, we understand the teacher has publicly expressed their intent to resign.”
At least it seemingly admitted that Oklahoma is censoring books and educators are pissed.
In early August, the Oklahoma State Board of Education demoted the accreditation status of two public school districts—Tulsa and Mustang—because they were found to be in violation of HB 1775. And in Texas, one school district recently put dozens of books “under review,” including a graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s diary and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, after the school board, with newly elected conservative officials, voted to re-review a list of previously challenged books. In Tennessee, a newly elected county district attorney told Jezebel she would not “prosecute librarians or teachers for the books that are in our schools” after a video of her suggesting exactly that went viral.
So students in red states can’t read books that would expand their awareness of their own identities or different people’s experiences. They also can’t have teachers that try to engage them in conversation about their own identities or different people’s experiences. And now they can’t go to a website that would offer them resources to learn about their own identities or different people’s experiences. It almost seems like Republicans are concerned that if kids learn about minorities and sexual orientations, or why and how different groups have been treated, or discriminated against, or ostracized throughout history, then maybe they, might...not...vote? Republican? When they turn 18? I don’t know!
“Make no mistake, the real victims here are Oklahoma public school students,” Boismer told the Oklahoma Daily. “This will not change until the voters of this state stop electing unqualified bigots to positions of power.”