In rare move, school librarian fights back in court against conservative activists

A Louisiana school librarian has sued two people for defamation after he accused her of advocating for placing “obscene” material in the children’s section of the parish library. This is a rare example of a teacher taking legal action against conservatives who used excessive rhetoric in their fight against LGBTQ-themed books.

Amanda Jones, a librarian at a middle school in Denham Springs, Louisiana, filed defamation court case on Wednesday, arguing that Facebook pages run by Michael Lunsford and Ryan Thames falsely labeled him a pedophile who wants to teach 11-year-olds about anal sex.

Jones, president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, was concerned and angered by the verbal attacks after speaking out against censorship at the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting. She said she is suing the two men because she is tired of the insults inflicted on teachers and librarians over LGBTQ material.

“I have enough for everyone,” Jones said in an interview. “No one stands up for these people. They just say what they want and it has no effect and they ruin people’s reputation and it has no result.”

Lunsford did not respond to requests for comment. Thames declined to comment.

Nationwide, school districts have been bombed by conservative activists and parents in the past year demand for books often with sexual references or that discuss racial conflict author of color Or those who are LGBTQ will be kicked off campuses. Those demands have progressed slowly to public libraries in recent months.

Many conservative activists have referred to those who defend the books”groomers,” comparing them to child abusers. The Proud Boys, an extremist hate group, has entered LGBTQ-themed reading programs many libraries, stressed that they needed to protect the children. some librarians have said They no longer feel secure in their roles.

Jones, 2021 Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators Middle School Teacher of the Year and 2021 school library journal The Librarian of the Year said that more than 200 librarians have reached out to him as the insults spread on Facebook. Many claimed that they have been victims of similar verbal and online abuse in the past two years. More than 600 people on GoFundMe have donated a combined $20,000 for Jones so that he can respond with legal action.

The defamation lawsuit seeks damages and asks a judge to issue a restraining order preventing the two activists from speaking publicly about Jones. She also filed a criminal complaint against the men at the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office said the matter was being investigated.

Jones spoke out against censorship at the board meeting of the Livingston Parish Public Library on 19 July, when the board was established. Consider A proposal for evaluating the contents of certain books. positions On Facebook Expressed displeasure about sexual references in sex education books available in the public library in the days before the meeting. Jones and many more other local citizens feared that the board would respond ban or ban literature with LGBTQ content and themes they visited happens somewhere else,

Amanda Jones poses at Cavalier House Books on August 12, 2022 in Denham Springs, LA.
Jones, president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, was concerned and angered by the online attacks, which came after speaking out against censorship at the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting. Emily Kask for NBC News

At the start of the meeting, board member Erin Sandfur said that an unidentified state official had brought to her attention some “inappropriate” books available in the library.

“The citizens of our parish include taxpayers who are white, black, brown, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian – people of all backgrounds and lives, and no one part of the community should decide what the rest Citizens have access,” Jones said at the meeting. “Just because you don’t want to read or watch it, it doesn’t give you the right to deny others or demand its transfer.”

Jones did not mention any specific title in his remarks, but said that it is a “false narrative” that librarians are putting pornography in children’s classes. She also acknowledged that “book challenges are often done with the best of intentions and in the name of age appropriateness.”

Lunsford, who runs a conservative activist group called Citizens for New Louisiana, spoke in favor of a ban on books containing sexual content at the meeting.

Three days after the meeting, Citizens for a New Louisiana posted a photo of Jones on Facebook and asked, “Why is she trying so hard to place sexually erotic and pornographic material in the child section?” Lunsford also submitted a records request to Jones’ school, seeking access to her personnel file and her email, and that she planned to visit her workplace, pursuant to the suit.

Over the next two weeks, the organization’s page posted about Jones several times, at one point saying that he believed “sharing sexuality and instructing teens on sexual acts is progressive.”

At the same time, another Facebook page called “Beau State of Mind” posted a meme with a picture of Jones saying she was “advocating for teaching anal sex to 11-year-olds.” The page, which has 6,300 followers, regularly posts anti-abortion comments, misinformation about COVID vaccines, and memes that insult the LGBTQ community. It later mocked him and other librarians fighting censorship. According to the lawsuit, Thames runs the “Bayou State of Mind” page.

People commented on some posts with calls that she be physically tortured, and circulated where she worked, screenshots show.

“It’s horrible, it’s humiliating,” Jones said.

She said she was overwhelmed and did not leave her house for two weeks, instead delivering groceries. She sat down with her teenage daughter to explain the memes and Facebook posts, and worried what her classmates would say to her about her. Even when people told her they were on her side, she said it was still embarrassing.

But she felt compelled to fight back, she said, because she’s famous in the library world and if she doesn’t speak up, the other target libraries won’t either.

“If it takes four or five years, I’m going to fight these guys over it,” she said. “Even if I lose, I can say I stood up for them.”

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