Ok so. Teacher resigns in protest against law restricting race education


Summer Boismier only had one day of the school year before a parent complained and administrators came to her high school classroom to investigate. Days later, she resigned in protest of a new Oklahoma law that restricts teaching about race and gender.

Even before the first day of the school year at Norman High School, Boismier suspected that her personal classroom library would get her into trouble by breaking this law, so she covered her books with butcher paper. But she added a touch of defiance, scribbling a message in permanent marker on the paper.

“Books the state doesn’t want you to read,” he said.

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 dealing with a wide range of subjects off the shelves of the library.”

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 “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish 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. Politicians in 35 other states are trying to restrict or have restricted education on racism, prejudice and related topics, according to chalk beat.

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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 her colleagues watched the legislation closely as it progressed through the Oklahoma legislature, concerned “because what it’s basically trying to do is to legislate on feelings and on 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 at the end of last month when the The State Board of Education downgraded the accreditations of two school districts for breaking 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 implications for teachers and districts,” administrators told teachers to review their classroom libraries before the first day of school to “ensure appropriateness to 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 lessons beyond official reading lists, she says, are often stacked with works written by “primarily people.” old dead whites”.

“It’s a way for me to complement that and add those more inclusive multicultural texts that the curriculum the official playlists don’t allow for,” Boismier said, adding, “If you’ve seen it on a website banned list of 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 said CNN that district officials said they felt the label on the QR code made it prohibited and that they did not 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. In 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 censorship and suppression 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.

So, Boismier said, she sped things up and is out of a job, wants to continue teaching in a classroom, and doesn’t know what she’ll do next. Yet she does not regret what she did or her resignation. She acknowledged the school district was in a sticky spot and said she blamed most of the blame on Oklahoma Republicans for fomenting what she described as a growing culture of fear, confusion and uncertainty in schools.

In this climate, Boismier said, she doesn’t feel like she belongs in an Oklahoma classroom.

Ms. Boismier said she could get a job teaching how to instruct students more effectively. Or she could go into education advocacy. Whatever she does, she plans to stay in education – in Oklahoma.

“That’s a message I’d like to send to people at the top of the food chain in state leadership,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

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