Teacher resigns in protest after being punished for banned books sign

Boismier, 34, included a QR code that his second-year English students could scan with their phones, leading them to a request for a Brooklyn Public Library card. The site said that even if they lived out of state, teens could still access materials as part of the library’s Books Unbanned project, ”a response to an increasingly coordinated and effective effort to remove books on a wide range of subjects from library shelves. .”

Hours later, a parent complained to Boismier school officials, accusing him of violating a new state law limiting public school classes or materials that cause students to ” feeling uncomfortable, guilty, anxious or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or gender. The complaint pushed Boismier into the debate about the role that parents, teachers and administrators play in deciding what to teach children, especially regarding race and gender. According to Chalkbeat, politicians in 35 other states are trying to restrict or have restricted education about racism, prejudice and related topics.

Oklahoma’s law is particularly harsh, the Washington Post reported. Teachers deemed to have broken the law may lose their teaching license.

During the first half of last year, Boismier and his colleagues watched the legislation closely as it progressed through the Oklahoma legislature, worrying “because essentially what it’s trying to to do is to legislate on the feelings and on the intention”.

Even though the new law went into effect months before Boismier started her freshman year at Norman High, she told the Post that she pretty much ignored it and taught like she had during her seven years. previous years in a classroom. Boismier said one of the most important parts of his job is speaking openly about dark chapters in American history and how these have shaped and continue to shape literature and identity.

“I believe we need to have these tough conversations,” she said. ”It’s absolutely essential to what I do.”

But things changed late last month when the State Board of Education downgraded the accreditations of two school districts for violating the new law, Boismier said. These measures sent a warning to teachers in other districts in the state, she said.

“It was meant to send a message, and message received,” she added.

On August 11, Norman’s teachers returned to work after summer vacation eight days before classes began. Due to the new law and the ”serious legal consequences for teachers and districts”, administrators have told teachers to review their classroom libraries before the first day of school to ”ensure suitability for the ‘age,’ asking them to vouch for the work or “provide at least two professional sources verifying suitability,” a district spokesperson told The Post in a statement.

“We have not banned any books or asked teachers to remove books from their classrooms,” spokesman Wes Moody said in the statement. “Classroom libraries enrich our schools and we want our classrooms to be places where literacy thrives.”

Boismier said she was one of the teachers who asked for advice on personal classroom libraries. She had spent her own money building hers into a collection of more than 500 books, many of the texts selected to expand the lessons beyond official reading lists, she says, are often stacked with works written by “for the most old dead whites”. ‘

“It’s a way for me to complement that and add those more inclusive and multicultural texts that the program the official playlists don’t allow for,” Boismier said, adding, “If you’ve seen it on a list of forbidden books, I made an effort to acquire it.”

Referring to the bill that would eventually become the new law restricting classroom discussion of race and gender, she called her library a “physical manifestation of a violation of HB 1775.”

Teachers were told to wrap books that could trigger a complaint, turn them over so their spines face inward or cover them, she said. Choosing the latter option, Boismier pulled out the butcher’s paper to hide the books from the very students she would have lent them to in years past.

She included the QR code with a caption: “Definitely don’t scan this! ”

Boismier told CNN that district officials said they felt the label on the QR code prohibited it and they didn’t want to encourage students to do anything illegal. She told the Post that authorities put her on administrative leave. In its statement, the district refuted that claim, saying Boismier had never been placed on administrative leave or suspended.

But they punished her, the district spokesman said. At a meeting on Tuesday, administrators told Boismier she was being reprimanded for “making personal political statements during class time and using their class to make a political demonstration expressing those views.”

“Like many educators, the teacher has concerns about the censorship and removal of books by the Oklahoma State Legislature,” Moody wrote in a statement to the Post. “However, as educators, our goal is to teach students to think critically, not to tell them what to think.”

The administrators asked Boismier to report to his class on Wednesday morning. Instead, she quit. Boismier told the Post that if she stayed and taught like she always has, she feared she would be hit with an escalating series of punishments.

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