A Brooklyn Public Library initiative to combat state book bans has landed an Oklahoma teacher in trouble, after a parent there complained her promotion of the resource was itself a violation of state law.
Summer Boismier, a high school English teacher in Norman, Okla., told Gothamist she was placed on leave after providing her students with information about Books UnBanned, a program that allows anyone between the ages of 13 to 21 to access the Brooklyn Public Library’s digital collection at no charge.
The library system launched the resource in April as a response to a surge in book bans spearheaded by conservative activists and lawmakers throughout the U.S. It has since received more than 4,000 applications from teenagers in every state, according to Fritzi Bodenheimer, a spokesperson for Brooklyn Public Library.
Wendy Suares, an anchor at KOKH FOX 25, reported on Twitter that a teacher at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma, was fired for speaking to students about the Brooklyn Public Library’s initiative to make books—especially frequently-challenged books—accessible to students around the country. She also shared the above QR code from the library, which leads to more information about the project, Books Unbanned.
The Brooklyn Public Library announced the initiative in April following reports from around the country that school districts were pulling books on LGBTQ identity and race from libraries, a phenomenon that has been denounced by PEN America, the American Library Association, and many others. It made free eCards available for anyone in the country between the ages of 13 and 21, giving them access to tens of thousands of books and online databases.
Suares reported that the same school district was also pulling books off the shelves of classroom libraries “that don’t have 2 research articles demonstrating their value. Teachers were given virtually no time to accomplish this so students returned to classes with empty bookshelves.” (What constitutes a “research article” in this instance is unclear.)
In a statement, Boismier said: “I have made the decision to resign from my position at Norman High School. I will say that the district did offer me back my job, allowing me back in the classroom as of tomorrow morning. However, there were some fundamental ideological differences between myself and district representatives that I just couldn’t get past. HB 1775 has created an impossible working environment for teachers and a devastating learning environment for students. 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.”