Florida Moms for Liberty members call cops on school librarians over YA books

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By Giselle Balido

November 8, 2023

The uproar was over a book checked out by a 17-year-old that has been recommended by a librarian association’s “Teen Reads” list and by the School Library Journal.

Falsely claiming that school librarians were distributing pornography to minors, two members of Moms for Liberty (M4L), a right-wing activist group, reported several Florida librarians to law enforcement and requested that officers be dispatched to investigate.

“Pornography [was] given to a minor in a school. And I would like to make a report with somebody and turn over the evidence,” Jennifer Tapley, a member of the group’s Santa Rosa County chapter, said during an Oct. 25 phone call to a local sheriff’s office.

According to the independent journalism outlet Popular Information, the book that a 17-year-old “minor” had checked out from Jay High School was Storm and Fury, a novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

RELATED: Florida Leads the Nation in Book Bans Under DeSantis’ Leadership

The book centers around an 18-year-old heroine who is losing her vision and is guarded by gargoyle shapeshifters. There’s a make-out scene, and one character almost has sex, according to Popular Information.

But sex was far from the author’s mind when penning the Young Adult novel. In actuality, Storm and Fury—which was included in the “Teen Reads” list of the Florida Association of Media in Education, a network of school library media professionals, and was recommended by the School Library Journalhas a very personal meaning for the author.

“The story is very close to my heart, as the main character has the same degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, as I do,” Armentrout told Popular Information, adding that rather than “incite sexual excitement,” she hoped that the book would “educate people on a little-known disease in a fun, suspenseful, and adventurous way.”

Armentrout said she was stunned to learn that the country is “living in an era where, apparently, some adults find it appropriate to contact the police over a fictional book involving gargoyles.”

‘DeSantis says this is child pornography.’

However, M4L member Tapley called the incident involving Storm and Fury “just as serious as if I handed a Playboy to [my child] right now.”

And in the officers’ body cam footage, Tom Gurski, the other M4L member, is seen expressing the view that DeSantis “says this is child pornography. It’s a serious crime.”

In fact, under Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has overtaken Texas and moved to the No. 1 position in school book bans, with 1,406 bans reported across the state during the 2022-23 school year. According to PEN America, an organization dedicated to protecting free expression, that’s more than double the 625 bans reported in the state of Texas, and 40% of the entire nationwide total.

“To see the orchestrated campaign to remove books from schools escalate to a police station is shocking,” Kasey Meehan, a Director at PEN America, told Popular Information.

RELATED: How One County Is Teaching Kids to Be Critical Thinkers in DeSantis’ Florida

After referring the investigation to the Santa Rosa County Schools director of safety, the sheriff’s office closed its case, according to Popular Information.

But Gurski has also reported other school librarians to law enforcement in Milton, targeting them over another young adult novel, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The book is a romantic comedy that includes some sexual situations and conversations and includes LGBTQ characters. According to Popular Information, the Milton Police Department is investigating Gurski’s complaint.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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