Oklahoma official calls to revoke teacher’s license for pushing Brooklyn library’s ‘banned books’

Oklahoma’s secretary of public education wants to strip away the teaching license of a teacher in his state who connected her students with a Brooklyn Public Library program that grants access to its digital collection at no charge.

Summer Boismier, a high school English teacher in Norman, Okla., was placed on leave earlier this month after providing her students with information about the Brooklyn Public Library’s Books UnBanned program. Now, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Public Education Ryan Walters called on the state’s board of education to revoke her license altogether on Wednesday.

“There is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom,” Walters said in a letter to the state’s BOE on Wednesday. “Ms. Boismier’s providing access to banned and pornographic material to students is unacceptable and we must ensure she doesn’t go to another district and do the same thing. This action must be dealt with swiftly and with respect to all our kids and parents.”

On their first day of school this month, Boismier’s 10th graders were greeted by red paper signs announcing the “books the state doesn’t want you to read,” accompanied by a QR code for the Brooklyn Public Library sign-up page. School officials later told her she was being placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into a potential violation of the state law, known as House Bill 1775.

The teacher, who declined to comment on Wednesday, told Gothamist in a previous interview that she was resigning after nine years on the job. She said a meeting with school leaders left her concluding that she would not be able to teach without censoring herself and her students.

Boismier later changed her Twitter default photo to that same QR code she gave her students connecting to the Brooklyn Public Library. She appeared in a public conversation with the library system on the social media platform on Thursday, saying her story should serve as a lesson for educators nationwide.

“If you’re listening from outside of Oklahoma, you’re next,” she said. “It’s very important that we pay attention to what’s happening here.”

The Oklahoma BOE did not return a request seeking comment.

Oklahoma passed a law last year limiting what kinds of classroom materials teachers could use, including literature that references “discriminatory principles,” widely understood to mean topics like LGBTQ rights or systemic racism. The American Civil Liberties Union has since said it was suing the state over that law.

The Brooklyn Public Library launched the Books UnBanned program in April as a response to book bans in several states throughout the U.S. The program garnered a strong following, according to a library spokesperson, who said the system received more than 4,000 applications from teenagers in every state.

Nick Higgins, chief librarian of the Brooklyn Public Library, said the system stood behind Boismier “and all who champion the right to read.”

In a statement, he said, “Brooklyn Public Library supports the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view. Efforts to silence voices and curb free expression are antithetical to the democratic principles we have defended from our founding.”

Walters, who serves as chief education adviser to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, will be on the ballot for state schools superintendent in November facing off against Democrat Jena Nelson.

Jake Offenhartz contributed reporting.

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