A Faculty Librarian Pushes Again on Censorship and Will get Loss of life Threats and On-line Harassment

Amanda Jones discovered a demise menace in her e-mail on a Sunday morning, virtually a month after she had spoken at a public library in opposition to censorship.

In July, Jones, who heads the board of the Louisiana Affiliation for Faculty Librarians, spoke up in opposition to censorship and e-book bans, particularly books about LGBTQ folks and folks of shade, at her native public library in Livingston Parish, La. She endured dozens of Fb posts and feedback suggesting she was a pedophile, a groomer, and accusing her of pushing pornography on kids.

However none of these messages from the native teams scared her as a lot because the demise menace from a person in Texas, about 4 hours away from the place she lived in Louisiana.

“It was fairly specific within the ways in which he was going to kill me,” Jones stated. “I used to be truly petrified.”

The subsequent day, Jones drove to the college the place she works as a college librarian and as she was going to get out of her automotive, noticed a person she didn’t acknowledge strolling round within the parking zone. She sat in her automotive for 10 minutes, afraid to go away. Finally, she referred to as her principal and requested him to test if he acknowledged the person. She solely left her automotive when she came upon it was a upkeep employee.

Now, Jones is pushing again, bringing swimsuit in opposition to a few of the Fb teams the place the harassment in opposition to her occurred. This week, a decide dismissed her case, however Jones vowed to attraction.

The librarian’s nightmare began on July 19, when Jones went to the assembly on the public library the place she has been a member since 1983 to make her case in opposition to censorship of books coping with LGBTQ themes and matters and books about folks of shade and racism, which have been frequent targets of e-book ban calls throughout the nation.

A PEN America research about faculty e-book bans within the 2021-22 tutorial yr stated 41 % of all bans are about books coping with LGBTQ matters. Forty % of the books banned have primary or secondary characters of shade, and 21 % immediately deal with race and racism.

“Censoring and relocating books and shows is dangerous to our group, however will likely be extraordinarily dangerous to our most weak—our youngsters,” she stated on the assembly.

In her speech, Jones didn’t point out any particular titles however talked usually about censorship and e-book banning. She was amongst 20 or so those that spoke in opposition to e-book bans.

On July 21, a Fb group referred to as Residents For a New Louisiana operated by defendant Michael Lunsford posted an image of Jones with the caption “Why is she combating so onerous to maintain sexually erotic and pornographic supplies within the child’s part?”

Lunsford stated he was additionally on the assembly and made a public remark.

On the identical day, one other group referred to as Bayou State of Thoughts, run by defendant Ryan Thames, posted a meme with Jones’ image which stated, “After advocating educating anal intercourse to 11-year-olds, I needed to change my identify on Fb.” By way of the put up, Thames revealed the complete identify Jones used on Fb (which was not her authorized identify) and her faculty district.

After weeks of Fb posts by the native teams in opposition to her, Jones stated she is now harassed by folks on Twitter and Fb that don’t even reside in Louisiana. Her complaints to the sheriff’s workplace in opposition to the Fb teams amounted to nothing, however she stated the police are engaged on extraditing the Texas man who despatched her the demise menace. The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s workplace didn’t reply to requests for remark.

‘It’s not simply taking place to me’

In a uncommon pushback in opposition to on-line defamation that some lecturers and librarians have been subjected to since e-book ban efforts escalated, Jones filed a lawsuit in opposition to the Fb teams Residents For a New Louisiana and Bayou State of Thoughts, in addition to Lunsford and Thames. She alleged that the teams have been defaming her for weeks on-line, saying they broken her private {and professional} popularity. Due to the teams, she stated, she’s acquired threats of violence and even the demise menace. She sought damages, a restraining order in opposition to the defendants, and an injunction prohibiting them from posting about her on-line.

“It’s not simply taking place to me, it’s occurred to tons of educators throughout the US,” she stated. “I do actually encourage folks when this occurs to ensure they construct their help system and weigh the professionals and cons of talking out. Typically in your communities and the place you reside, it’s important to do what’s most secure for you.”

After the preliminary injunction listening to was rescheduled twice, the decide dismissed the lawsuit per the defendants’ request on Wednesday, saying that Jones was a “restricted public official” due to her place with the librarians’ group and that the feedback made in opposition to Jones weren’t defamatory and have been simply opinions. Jones stated the decision was disappointing, however she is planning to attraction.

The defendants stated their argument was concerning the content material of the books within the library and Jones had opened herself as much as criticism as a result of she determined to talk on the assembly.

“Miss Jones determined she wished to interject herself into this library board controversy, and he or she’s making an attempt to steer everyone that her opinion is true,” Thames’ lawyer, Joseph Lengthy, stated. “Effectively, if you try this, after all, you’re going to get criticism and also you’re going to get help. And in case you can’t deal with the criticism with out having to file a lawsuit, you most likely shouldn’t get in the midst of the fray.”

Jones additionally alleged within the lawsuit that she was referred to as a groomer on-line, which suggests an grownup who fosters a relationship with a minor, usually with the intention of sexual abuse. The time period has been coopted by the precise to insult folks advocating for LGBTQ points. Lengthy stated Jones was referred to as a groomer as a result of “she was advocating details for younger kids.”

“And whether or not she was or whether or not she was not [a groomer]—I imply, I don’t assume she was—however one would argue in case you advocate educating intercourse to younger kids, that may be a approach that groomers use to sexually abuse kids,” added Lengthy, who stated he didn’t make that allegation himself.

Defendants argue sexual content material is the difficulty

Lengthy and Lunsford additionally stated that the case was not about books containing references to LGBTQ characters or coping with matters of sexuality.

“It was simply sexual content material, whether or not it’s heterosexual or gay, it isn’t applicable for 11- or 12-year-olds,” Lengthy stated. “That was a pink herring early on, however that by no means got here up within the listening to in any respect.”

For his half, Lunsford stated he by no means referred to as Jones a pedophile or a groomer, or accused her of pushing sexually specific content material.

“We merely requested questions of why is that this materials within the library? Why are these folks combating so onerous to maintain it in?” he stated.

He stated he had additionally acquired threats to his life for talking in opposition to Jones.

“Individuals on the perimeter of each side get a bit of carried away,” he stated. “It’s not applicable, folks shouldn’t do it. Interact on the difficulty, whether or not that is applicable for kids or isn’t it.”

Residents for a New Louisiana hasn’t issued any e-book challenges referring to books about “that life-style,” Lunsford stated, referring to the LGBTQ folks. He stated his group’s challenge is targeted on books such because the graphic novel, Let’s Speak about It: The Teen’s Information to Intercourse, Relationships, and Being a Human.

The express photos within the graphic novel are inappropriate for kids and that’s what his group objects to, he stated.

However the stress of weeks of on-line harassment has caught up with Jones. The defendants have contacted her relations by social media, she stated, and folks have complained about her to each the Louisiana Faculty Library Affiliation, of which she is president, and to her faculty district.

She hasn’t been capable of focus at work and is struggling bodily results. Jones stated beginning in January, she’s going to take a sabbatical from work for the spring semester. However Jones stated even realizing what occurred, she nonetheless would select to talk up in opposition to censorship the way in which she did at that public assembly in July.

“Why not me? As a result of any person’s received to do it,” she stated, “As a result of these folks, they don’t cease. And I’m simply actually sick of it.”

Jones’ good friend Kim Howell, who was the previous president of the state faculty librarians’ affiliation, stated if this had occurred to her, she would’ve left her job. She stated she admired Jones for standing as much as the defendants and combating in opposition to censorship.

Howell and her colleagues on the affiliation have been a significant help system for Jones all through this expertise, Jones stated, from financially contributing to the GoFundMe that allowed her to rent the lawyer to providing emotional help.

“It was simply devastating to observe my good friend be attacked personally and these lies informed about her,” Howell stated. “Amanda’s received moxie. She’s making a distinction and I’m one hundred pc behind her.”

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