At a July school board meeting in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, middle school librarian Amanda Jones spoke out against book censorship. Conservatives in a neighboring town had been successful in taking away some resources for college libraries, and Jones didn’t wish to see the identical occur in her district.
“While book challenges are sometimes done with the most effective intentions, and within the name of age appropriateness, they often goal marginalized communities reminiscent of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] and the LBGTQ community. Additionally they goal books on sexual health and reproduction,” Jones said on the meeting, in keeping with her own transcription.
“Once you begin relocating and banning one topic, it becomes a slippery slope and where does it end?”
By the subsequent day, conservatives had decided that her quest to maintain books with LGBTQ themes within the library meant that she was trying to supply sexually explicit materials to children.
Michael Lunsford, the manager director of right-wing nonprofit Residents for a Latest Louisiana, and Ryan Thames, who runs a politically conservative Facebook page called Bayou State of Mind, each spoke out against Jones on Facebook. They claimed in a series of posts that Jones was advocating for libraries to contain pornography and books that teach kids the best way to perform sexual acts, in keeping with court documents.
Public school educators have long faced disagreement from parents and other community members. But this kind of vitriol was latest to Jones, who has been a teacher for 20 years and is the president of the state’s public school librarian association
“I’ve had some books questioned and challenged at my school, perhaps a couple of times within the 22 years I’ve been teaching,” she told HuffPost this week. “But that is personal. These individuals are posting online that I’m advocating for teaching anal sex to children.”
Like many other librarians across the country, Jones also received an explicit death threat via email, and her family and friends have received harassing messages as well. The e-mail, which was sent by a person in Texas a couple of month after the college board meeting, accused her of indoctrinating children and being a pedophile, and it stated that the author knew where Jones lived and worked. Jones said it ended with words meant to mimic a gun: “Click, click see you soon.” Police are attempting to extradite the one who wrote the e-mail.
In August, Jones filed a lawsuit against Lunsford and Thames, in search of damages and asking a judge to bar them from posting about her on Facebook.
“No one stands up to those people,” she told NBC News on the time. “They simply say what they need and there aren’t any repercussions they usually destroy people’s reputations and there’s no consequences.”
But last week, Judge Erika Sledge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Jones was a limited public figure and that the bar to satisfy the definition of defamation was higher. Sledge also ruled that Lunsford and Thames were merely stating their opinion.
“It’s a dangerous ruling,” Jones’ lawyer, Ellyn Clevenger, told Louisiana newspaper The Advocate. “It sets a dangerous precedent.”
The posts attacking Jones and insisting that she had a secret harmful agenda are straight out of the right-wing playbook. For the past 12 months, conservatives have used the identical rhetoric in an try and defund and dismantle each school and public libraries.
“This time last 12 months it was CRT,” Jones said, referring to critical race theory, the college-level academic framework that conservatives have insisted educators are teaching children in public schools. “Now, they’re insisting there’s porn within the library.”
Right-wing extremists have protested libraries over Drag Queen Story Hour events, where drag queens read to children, and oldsters have moved to censor LGBTQ authors. A record variety of books have been challenged this 12 months. Libraries across the country have received bomb threats, which thus far have turned out to be hoaxes.
And faculty librarians usually are not the one ones facing this sort of backlash. A nationwide teacher shortage — roughly 300,000 jobs are open for educators and support staff — is partly fueled by the correct’s culture war. Gay teachers have resigned, and others have retired sooner than planned.
“This can be a disservice to educators in every single place,” Jones said.
Despite the threats and the dismissal of the lawsuit, Jones has found some room for optimism. In spite of everything, no books have been faraway from her library. “Technically, I feel like I won,” she said.
Jones also said that she is lucky to have received an amazing amount of support, with tons of of individuals reaching out to inform her to maintain fighting and that she’s doing the correct thing. However the attacks have taken a toll on her.
“I began therapy, I had to start out taking anxiety medication and my hair is falling out,” Jones said. And she or he’s still apprehensive about what the lawsuit dismissal means for the long run — and for other librarians who face the identical form of harassment.
“I’ve lost all faith within the judicial system,” Jones said. “The judge’s ruling has opened the door. Persons are definitely going to feel more empowered to harass educators online.”