Wednesday, April 24, 2024

OK: Walters Continues (Unsuccessful) Harassment Of Teacher

Oklahoma's Education Dude-Bro-In-Chief can't seem to smack down former Oklahoma teacher Summer Boismier, but it's not for lack of trying.

If you've forgotten about Summer Boismier, let me refresh your memory before bringing the story up to date.

Back in September of 2022, after Oklahoma had unveiled its own version of a Florida-style reading restriction law, Norma High School English teacher Boismier drew flak for covering some books in her classroom with the message "Books the state doesn't want you to read." Apparently even worse, she posted the QR code for the Brooklyn Public Libraries new eCard for teens program, which allows teens from all over the country to check out books, no matter how repressive or restrictive state or local rules they may live under.

She was suspended by the district, which said that this was about her "personal political statements" and a "political display" in the classroom. Boismier told The Gothamist
I saw this as an opportunity for my kids who were seeing their stories hidden to skirt that directive. Nowhere in my directives did it say we can't put a QR code on a wall.

The suspension was brief, but Boismier decided this was not the kind of atmosphere in which she wanted to work, so she resigned, citing a culture of fear, confusion and uncertainty in schools, fomented by Oklahoma Republicans.   

That wasn't enough to satisfy Walters, at the time campaigning for office. The whole business had been a high-profile brouhaha, so Candidate Walters popped up to put his two cents in via a letter that he posted on Twitter.

Saying that "providing access to banned and pornographic material is unacceptable" and "There is no place for a teacher with a liberal political agenda in the classroom," Walters called for Boismier's license to be revoked. And he called her out by name.

That, of course, led in true MAGA fashion to a flood of vulgarity and death threats directed at Boismier as reported by KFOR:
“These teachers need to be taken out and shot,” “teachers like this should not only be fired but also should be swinging from a tree,” “If Summer tried this in Afghanistan, they’d cut out her tongue for starters,” are just a minuscule fraction of the threats pouring into Summer Boismier’s inbox.

Boismier was unwilling to put up with all of this. When Walters continued to try to strip her teaching license (even though in December of 2022 she took a job at the Brooklyn Library), Boismier used a quirk of Oklahoma law to demand a trial-like hearing to dispute the department of education decision. At that hearing in June of 2023, Assistant Attorney General Liz Stephens recommended against taking Boismier's license, saying the state failed to prove that Boismier had broken the law. 

Boismier wasn't done. In August of 2023, she filed a defamation lawsuit against Walters. Walters filed a motion to dismiss in January of this year, and U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Jones (Oklahoma's first Black magistrate and elevated to the district court by Donald Trump) denied the motion to dismiss. Walters had alleged that Boismier was a sort of public figure, and that malice on his part couldn't be shown. The judge disagreed, saying her case looks solid enough to proceed. So that lawsuit will continue winding through the court.

Meanwhile, the state board and Walters have continued to move forward to take Boismier's license. As reported by Murray Evans at The Oklahoman, they decided hold yet another hearing to "finalize the revocation" in March. Only there's a problem with that plan. In March, all of the department's attorneys quit, so they have no lawyers with which to hold a legal-type proceeding. They've postponed action until May. Once again, Walters has shot himself in the foot by just being lousy at his job. 

Of course, at any moment Walters could just say, "Look, trying to punish a former Oklahoma teacher who now lives in New York and works in a library for breaking laws two years ago that the assistant attorney general says she didn't actually break--well, that's a ridiculous and petty waste of department resources, so we're going to drop the whole thing." But somehow I don't think that's what's going to happen. 


1 comment:

  1. If Walters thought Boismier would go away quietly, he is sadly mistaken.

    Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, faces national backlash as he continues to inject his extremist ideology into public school classrooms.