A conservative group that opposes mask mandates, critical race theory, and LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools has accused a Florida librarian of distributing child pornography by allowing students to access a fantasy novel.
The novel, Storm and Fury, is a popular young adult fantasy book by Jennifer L. Armentrout that follows an 18-year-old girl who can communicate with ghosts and a handsome gargoyle protector. The book, which has a 4.2 rating on Goodreads and was nominated for the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards, contains some explicit descriptions of the protagonists’ sexual encounters.
Jennifer Tapley, a member of the group Moms for Liberty, went to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office on November 5 to file a complaint against the librarian, who works at the Gulf Breeze High School. Tapley brought the book with her and cited a state law that prohibits the distribution of obscene material to minors. She also claimed that Governor Ron DeSantis had declared the book to be illegal.
“This is a felony. This is a crime. This is child pornography. This is not a joke. This is not a game. This is not a drill. This is serious,” Tapley said in a video that she posted on Facebook.
The video shows Tapley’s interaction with the officers, who did not seem to take her complaint seriously. One of them asked her if she had read the book, to which she replied that she had skimmed through it. Another officer told her that the book was not illegal and that the school district had the authority to decide what books to offer to students.
Tapley’s complaint is part of a larger campaign by Moms for Liberty to challenge and remove books that they deem inappropriate for children from school libraries and curricula. The group, which was founded in January 2021 by two former school board members, has chapters in 15 states and claims to have more than 20,000 members.
In Santa Rosa County, the group has successfully challenged and removed five graphic novels from the school district’s curriculum, claiming they are inappropriate for children. The novels include Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which depicts the author’s coming out as a lesbian and her father’s suicide, and They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, which recounts the actor’s childhood in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
The group’s efforts have sparked backlash from librarians, teachers, students, and civil rights groups, who accuse them of censorship and violating the First Amendment. They also argue that the group is misrepresenting the books and ignoring their educational and literary value.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a little bit of romance in a book. It’s not like it’s graphic or explicit. It’s just a normal part of life,” said Sarah Jones, a 16-year-old student and a fan of Storm and Fury.
The group’s influence has also reached the state level, as Governor DeSantis appointed Tina Descovich, the co-founder of Moms for Liberty, to the Florida Commission on Ethics in September. The commission is responsible for investigating complaints of ethical misconduct by public officials and employees.
Descovich’s appointment has drawn criticism from civil rights groups, who say she has shown a disregard for academic freedom and the role of libraries in a democratic society.
Moms for Liberty, however, denies that they are a book-banning group and says they are trying to protect their children from harmful material that is being taught in the classroom.
– WATCH: Moms for Liberty Member Demands Florida Librarians’ Arrest, Miami New Times, November 6, 2023
– ‘There won’t be libraries left’: how a Florida county became the book ban heartland of the US, The Guardian, August 19, 2023
– DeSantis Appoints Co-Founder of Book Ban Group to Ethics Commission, Business Insider, September 23, 2023
– Moms for Liberty gets 5 graphic books removed from Florida schools, New York Post, July 12, 2023