OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters has been named as a Defendant/Respondent in seven lawsuits since taking office in January. The two most recent come from a former Oklahoma State Department of Education employee and a former Norman High School teacher.
The lawsuits Supt. Walters is currently fighting include:
Black Emergency Response Team et al v. O’Connor et al – filed in U.S. District Court, Western District Court of Oklahoma
McGee v. Walters et al – filed in U.S. District Court, Western District Court of Oklahoma
Colwell v. Walters et al – filed in U.S. District Court, Western District Court of Oklahoma
Boismier v. Walters – filed in U.S. District Court, Western District Court of Oklahoma
Mecklenburg et al vs Kingfisher Independent School et al – filed in Oklahoma Appellate Court
Bointy, Janessa v. Oklahoma State Department of Education – filed in Oklahoma County Court
Okplac, Inc. et al vs. Walters et al – filed in Oklahoma County Court
Three of the above lawsuits have been filed in the last week.
Summer Boismier and her attorney filed a federal lawsuit on August 30.
The lawsuit illustrates a timeline beginning in August 2022. Up until then, Boismier was employed as a Norman High School English teacher. She was previously employed with Piedmont Public Schools and was selected as their Teacher of the Year.
Boismier resigned from the Norman school district after a parent complained about political statements made in the classroom.
“The parent alleged the teacher had, during class time, made derogatory and divisive remarks toward state legislators and used her classroom to make a political display expressing her own opinions,” said Norman Public School Superintendent Nick Migliorino.
The week of Boismier’s resignation, the district said: “The teacher had, during class time, made personal political statements and used their classroom to make a political display expressing those opinions.”
A QR code was displayed in Boismier’s classroom.
The code, if scanned, would lead students to a Brooklyn Public Library link where they could virtually read any book they wanted.
Boismier’s lawsuit then jumps to November 2022 when then-Secretary of Education, Ryan Walters was elected as the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. His term began on January 9.
During Supt. Walters’ campaign for office, he posted two letters to social media.
Both letters are still posted on Supt. Walters’ X account as of Tuesday afternoon.
The first letter posted claims Boismier was “subsequently fired.” An “updated” version of the letter then states she “resigned rather than face removal.”
The lawsuit states Supt. Walters’ claim that Boismier was fired is false. It also states a number of other statements are either false or misleading. Those include:
“The allegation that Plaintiff distributed pornography to students, which would have been a serious and disturbing crime.”
“The allegation that Plaintiff caused harm and shame to the entire profession of teachers by ‘sexualizing her classroom.’”
“The ‘updated letter’ continued to contain the second and third allegation noted above, but replaced the misleading allegation that Plaintiff had been fired with a false allegation that she “resigned rather than face removal.” While Plaintiff had resigned, it was not connected to any agreement, plan, or means to avoid or prevent discipline or termination, and none was pending against her.”
The exact number of people who read or saw the two letters is unknown, but as it currently stands, it appears hundreds have seen it.
Shortly after the two letters were posted, Boismier received several vulgar and threatening messages. One referenced her then-home address.
“Boismier was forced to move from her home in Oklahoma due to the threat of violence against her and emotional injury,” the lawsuit reads. “The false statements made by Walters about Plaintiff are consistent with a longer pattern of repeatedly using false sensational allegations against educators for political or personal gain or distraction from his own scandals or alleged
misconduct as a state political figure.”
According to the lawsuit, no similar allegations have been previously made against Boismier.
Boismier is suing Supt. Walters in his individual capacity for defamation, false representation and slander and libel.
Boismier is seeking $75,000 in damages.
Another lawsuit was filed against Supt. Walters on September 1 by former OSDE employee, Janessa Bointy. She’s suing for wrongful and retaliatory termination of employment.
Bointy began working with OSDE in December 2020 as a School Counselor Specialist for Project AWARE East.
According to her lawsuit, Bointy’s job duties never involved publicizing programs or outreach to non-grant receiving districts. She was assigned to facilitate grant work only with specific school districts: Ada, Checotah and Atoka.
“[Project AWARE] is a grant designed to help rural schools that have been identified as a mental health desert and implement multi-tiered systems of support, more intense mental health resources, training for teachers, just helping improve their communities through mental health guidance and support,” said Bointy. “That was what I did for a living. I loved my work. I loved the people that I worked with. Those communities have been transformed because of that grant. Not just the schools, but I mean the communities, the relationships we were able to put into place with community mental health organizations and just also helping in the stigma that surrounded mental health and normalizing it and just leading people to resources was huge.”
It’s a role Bointy misses, but one she would only accept again if OSDE leadership changed.
“It’s been like a grieving process. I get angry again and just kind of start the cycle again,” she added.
Bointy’s lawsuit states she was fired because of her two-minute public comment at an Edmond Public Schools Board of Education meeting in March.
Aside from working with OSDE, Bointy is a mother of four Edmond Public Schools students.
Bointy said she spoke during the Board meeting because of an Edmond student recently committing suicide in February. She explained she wanted to provide resources to families and the district in an attempt to prevent another suicide.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I was trying to be a voice for our kids and for our future. And someone has to do it. It’s really important. Even in the past couple of months, a new statistic that’s been released, suicide is now the leading cause of death for kids ages 14 and 15 in our country,” said Bointy. “We are responsible for prevention and we are responsible for education and coming together to figure out a solution to prevent this from happening. I don’t think that we can turn a blind eye on statistics. The numbers don’t lie. It doesn’t lie. It paints a picture for us and gives us an opportunity to do some research and look into our planning and strategic moves.”
After the Board meeting was over, an Oklahoma City news station aired a story discussing the meeting, the lawsuit says.
As part of the news story, portions of Bointy’s public comment aired and she was identified as a “concerned parent.”
According to Bointy’s attorney, Leah Roper, Bointy didn’t interview with the news outlet and was unaware of any news presence when making her comments.
Three days after the board meeting, Bointy was fired from OSDE.
“The reasons stated on Plaintiff’s termination document were: breach of the confidentiality agreement; violation of Defendant OSDE’s media policy; and improper use of time and leave. Two of the cited reasons specifically identify Plaintiff’s comments made during the March 6, 2023, Edmond Public Schools meeting as their basis,” the lawsuit states.
Roper told KFOR on Tuesday the reasoning for Bointy’s termination is a clear violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Oklahoma’s Constitution. She also said it’s a violation of Oklahoma’s Burk tort doctrine.
“What we now know is that Ryan Walters has a pattern of censoring speech from his employees. We’re seeking to hold him individually accountable as well,” said Roper. “To repress speech and interfere with resources for kids and their families that need the help just really does not sit well with me.”
Roper added each reason for Bointy’s termination is baseless.
The reasoning behind “improper use of time and leave” allegedly stems from an incident that took place 10 months before Bointy was fired.
“They simply threw that in as another issue to make, frankly, make Janessa sound bad. They had a miscommunication about a day [Bointy was taking] off and why she was taking the day off was not very clear on the state to employees aid. So she, I think, designated it as an incorrect type of leave for what she was doing. They talked it out. She got a write up and she said, ‘Okay, I’ll accept that.’ It was a miscommunication. Learn from it. Never happened again. But here we are 10 months later, and she’s being disciplined for it a second time; this time as a termination,” explained Roper. “I think it was just trying to bolster the rationale. It was still in her file at that time as a state employee. Discipline rolls off your record after a year. I think it was just like a grasping at straws situation because the other two issues aren’t quite accurate either.”
As for the accusation of Bointy breaching confidentiality, Roper said nothing in Bointy’s public comment would have been considered secret information. She said the resources listed by Bointy are publicly available.
Roper said she has not heard from OSDE since filing a tort claim in May.
“They’ve shown no interest in working through resolving these issues or taking corrective action. You know, there was a lot of opportunity here. In fact, I’ve invited them to contact me this entire time and would still welcome that. If we don’t hear from them, we’ll just continue with the legal process and let it do its job,” stated Roper.
Roper said the next step in this legal battle is to serve OSDE and Supt. Walters with the lawsuit.
Bointy is seeking in excess of $10,000 in damages.
News 4 reached out to OSDE Director of Communications, Dan Isett for comment on both Boismier’s and Bointy’s lawsuits.
In a previous News 4 story, former OSDE spokesperson, Justin Holcomb said, “This is yet another example of a baseless claim. Contrary to public servants, these individuals are political activists who have no business being funded by Oklahoma taxpayers. The people of Oklahoma overwhelmingly voted for Ryan Walters during the course of three separate elections last year – as such, this administration will not tolerate pre-existing bureaucrats who are not 100% committed to empowering parents, ending leftist indoctrination, and making Oklahoma’s public education the best in the nation.”
However, when OSDE was asked for an updated statement on Bointy’s case, they declined.
“I am not able to comment on outstanding personnel matters, but I can confirm that Boismier’s teaching license will be taken up by the state board, but that has not yet been scheduled,” said Isett on Tuesday.
News 4 reached out to Boismier’s attorney on Tuesday, but didn’t hear back.