Summer Boismier, who has taught in the state for the past nine years, began this year at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma, by greeting her students with a unique display — bookshelves covered in red construction paper that read, “books the state doesn’t want you to read.”
The display was meant to respond to legislation, signed into law last year by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, that restricts a number of classroom materials, including books that reference “discriminatory principles.” Books that address inequalities and discuss issues relating to systemic racism and LGBTQ topics are the ones that are primarily targeted by the law.
Stitt claimed that the law would protect children from feeling “discomfort” over learning about discrimination and other acts of bigotry in the U.S. — a common talking point among far right officials and pundits who have implemented or promoted such bans elsewhere while ignoring the discomfort students of color or LGBTQ students feel by not having teachings that are representative of their identities or experiences.
Included in Boismier’s display was a QR code to the Brooklyn Public Library. That library system is providing digital copies of books being banned by state legislatures and municipalities across the country, free of charge to teenagers.
Boismier viewed the QR code as a loophole to the state law and her own school’s rules on the matter. “Nowhere in my directives did it say we can’t put a QR code on a wall,” she said to Gothamist.
Officials at her school disagreed, and she was placed on administrative leave for her actions.
After the school said that she could return to teaching this week, Boismier refused, citing “fundamental ideological differences between myself and district representatives that I just couldn’t get past,” in a statement. She further added that the restrictive law and the high school’s strict adherence to it created “an impossible working environment for teachers and a devastating learning environment for students.”
Boismier also noted that her departure created an unfortunate situation for students at the high school:
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.
Boismier has raised grievances with the law on her social media profile as well. Earlier this month, she expressed anger at the new guidelines she was forced to follow.
“The censorship of LGBTQ+ and multicultural texts … is the latest in a long line of attempts to enact violent erasure on marginalized communities and vulnerable populations in Oklahoma,” she said on Twitter.
“Every child — and👏I👏mean👏every👏child — deserves to see themselves reflected and validated in our schools. But no #oklaed student deserves to see their identity — nay, their humanity — vilified by adults in powerful positions who are supposed to protect them… all of them,” she said in a follow-up tweet.