A collection of banned books at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. (AP Photo/)Ted Shaffrey/AP
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Last month, a 10th grade English teacher in Oklahoma committed a cardinal sin for the modern American right: encouraging students to read banned books. Now, state Education Secretary Ryan Walters is calling for the revocation of her teaching license.
The saga began on the first day of school, when 34-year-old teacher Summer Boismier covered her classroom library in red paper and labeled the collection, “Books the state doesn’t want you to read.” Boismier included a QR code directing students to the Brooklyn Library’s Books Unbanned initiative, which allows teens around the country to access e-books that might have been removed from the shelves of their school libraries. Boismier said that she hid her book collection because her school district had asked teachers to individually review—or cover up—books that might run afoul of a new state law that limits the way race and gender can be taught in schools.
HB 1775: Before and after | My Ss no longer have access to books by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or gender non-conforming authors because state leadership has spent the last year loudly labeling these books and their stories/perspectives as pornography, as indoctrination. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/cxClYZfCUi
— Ms. Boismier, M.Ed. (@MsBoismier_ELA) August 13, 2022
A parent complained. Boismier resigned. And that was the end of the story—until the Oklahoma education secretary, who is running to become the state’s superintendent of public schools, decided to bring the attack on teachers’ liberties to a whole new level.
In a letter released Wednesday, Walters accused Boismier of “providing access to banned and pornographic material to students.” He also inaccurately described her as having been fired; she resigned voluntarily. Most outrageously, he requested that the state Board of Education revoke Boismier’s teaching certificate—a punishment typically reserved for teachers who have committed crimes.
— Secretary Ryan Walters (@sec_walters) August 31, 2022
There’s no word from the current head of the state Board of Education on whether he’ll heed Walters’ call. Still, the announcement is a chilling reminder of the ongoing attacks against our nation’s already overworked, underpaid, and desperately needed teachers.