Oklahoma censorship

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Oklahoma censorship

Post by Stevyn » Thu Sep 01, 2022 12:10 pm

Walters asks state board to revoke former NPS teacher's certificate
By Max Bryan | Transcript News Editor

https://www.normantranscript.com/news/w ... aeb8f.html

Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters asked the state Board of Education to revoke the teaching certificate of a former Norman Public Schools teacher who quit her job after a complaint from a parent that she made political statements about access to literature in her classroom.

It would be the first teacher certificate revoked in Oklahoma of its kind if the board was to follow through on Walters’ request. Teacher's certificates in Oklahoma are usually tied to criminal behavior, according to Department of Education spokesperson Rob Crissinger.

Former Norman High School English teacher Summer Boismier put butcher paper with the words "Books the state doesn't want you to read" over her classroom bookcases at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. In an interview with The Transcript, Boismier said she put the paper up in light of Oklahoma House Bill 1775, which prohibits public schools from teaching anything that makes a student "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress" because of their race or sex.

Boismier also posted a QR code from Brooklyn Public Library in New York for her students. The library system has made the code available as part of its Books Unbanned project in light of what it characterized as state legislatures trying to ban certain books from schools.

The Norman School District said in a statement last week that it did not ban or prohibit any books.

“Based on what we know at this time, the State Department of Education is not going to be filing an application to possibly revoke the certificate,” Crissinger said in an emailed response to questions Wednesday.

Crissinger also said NPS is reviewing the situation at a local level, and that the Department of Education will proceed according to its findings.

NPS spokesperson Wes Moody said Wednesday afternoon that he was unsure if Crissinger was referencing the district’s review of the situation generally or something more specific, and that he would have to look into it.

Boismier said she "ideally" would like to teach in Oklahoma again.

Walters said Boismier’s revocation would be the first in connection with House Bill 1775 since it became law in 2021. In a statement issued Wednesday, Walters claimed Boismier provided students access to "banned and pornographic material," and that "there is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom."

"This action must be dealt with swiftly and with respect to all our kids and parents," Walters' statement reads.

“If by ‘liberal agenda,’ he means creating an inclusive classroom that offers multiple perspectives, then, yes, I’m bringing a liberal agenda,” Boismier said Wednesday.

When asked for specific examples of “pornographic” materials referenced, Walters said the QR code Boismier gave her students included the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” The book contains sexual illustrations and has been the subject of controversy in other states as well.

Boismier said Wednesday that she “firmly” rejected Walters’ notion that interprets LGBTQ+ perspectives as pornographic.

Walters alleged in the statement that he speaks "for parents across the state who are demanding swift and immediate action."

“We’re talking (about) someone who is being very openly defiant, and has publicly stated she’s gonna break the law again, so there is no place for indoctrination in Oklahoma schools,” Walters said.

Boismier told The Transcript last week she would do everything she did again if she was still teaching.

State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman — who proposed an unsuccessful bill in the 2022 Legislative Session to ban books from schools containing themes of sex, sexuality or gender under threat of a $10,000 daily fine — said in a written statement Wednesday that Boismer “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and not have access to other children.”

If a court decided Boismier was guilty of distribution of obscene material, she would be guilty of a misdemeanor in Oklahoma.

However, a Virginia lawsuit against the book on similar grounds was dismissed earlier this month.

NPS spokesperson Wes Moody said in a statement issued Wednesday that the QR code offered to the students was not pornographic, but “a link to a public access library resource.”

Standridge, who is also a co-author of HB 1775, did not directly respond Wednesday when asked if he was comfortable with the implications of the bill as it relates to the school district. State Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, the lead author of the bill, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

In a statement issued to the media last week, Moody said the district has "placed renewed emphasis" to make sure teachers don't violate HB 1775.

Oklahoma Education Association president Katherine Bishop said she is “concerned” about Walters’ move, adding that he should spend his time “resolving the real issues facing the students of Oklahoma,” such as its teacher shortage and resource gaps from underfunded public schools.

Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said the effort to revoke Boismier’s certification will negatively impact teacher recruiting and retention in Oklahoma.

“I’m very concerned the board is overstepping and not taking into consideration the people in the communities where these schools are, the teachers and the administrators in these schools,” Floyd said. “They need to be able to present their views, and the board needs to be listening to that.”

The state board in July voted to lower Tulsa and Mustang public school districts' accreditation status to "accredited with warning" in connection to alleged violations of the Oklahoma law. Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation was lowered in connection with its training on racial bias; Mustang’s was related to a drill that highlighted individual differences.

Moody said the State Department of Education as of Wednesday had not given the district any notice regarding its accreditation.

Walters said he believed NPS responded to Boismier’s actions appropriately.

Reporter Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report.

Max Bryan is the news editor at The Transcript, where he covers criminal justice and public safety for the publication. You may reach him at mbryan@normantranscript.com or on Twitter at @MBryanOK.
Contact me directly: Ironfeatherbooks (@) gmail.com


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