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

A Louisiana school librarian is suing two men for defamation once they accused her of advocating to help keep “pornographic” materials in the parish library’s kids’ section. It is a rare exemplory case of an educatortaking legal action against conservatives who use extreme rhetoric within their battle against LGBTQ-themed books.

Amanda Jones, a librarian at a middle school in Denham Springs, Louisiana, filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday, arguing that Facebook pages run by Michael Lunsford and Ryan Thames falsely labeled her a pedophile who would like to teach 11-year-olds about anal intercourse.

Jones, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, was alarmed and outraged by the verbal attacks, which came after she spoke against censorship at a Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting. She said shes suing both men because shes exhausted with the insults hurled at educators and librarians over LGBTQ materials.

Ive had enough for everyone, Jones said within an interview. Nobody stacks up to these folks. They just say what they need and you can find no repercussions plus they ruin peoples reputations and theres no consequences.

Lunsford didn’t react to requests for comment. Thames declined to comment.

Nationwide, school districts have already been bombarded by conservative activists and parents in the last year demanding that books with sexual references or that discuss racial conflict, often by authors of color or those people who are LGBTQ, be purged from campuses. Those demands have slowly moved toward public libraries lately.

Many conservative activists have described individuals who defend the books as groomers, comparing them to child molesters. The Proud Boys, an extremist hate group, has barged into LGBTQ-themed reading events in several libraries, insisting they have to protect children. Some librarians have said they no more feel safe serving within their roles.

Jones,the 2021 Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators Middle School Teacher of the entire year and the 2021 School Library Journals Librarian of the entire year, said a lot more than 200 librarians reach out to heras the insults on Facebook spread. Many claimed that they had been victims of similar verbal and online abuse previously two years. A lot more than 600 people donated a combined $20,000 for Jones on GoFundMe so she could respond with legal action.

The defamation suit seeks damages and asks a judge to issue a restraining order to avoid both activists from talking about Jones publicly. She also filed criminal complaints with the Livingston Parish Sheriffs Office contrary to the men. The sheriffs office said the case is under investigation.

Jones spoke against censorship at the Livingston Parish public librarys board meeting on July 19 once the board have been set to consider a motion to judge this content of certain books. Posts on Facebook in the times before the meeting expressed outrage about sexual references in sex education books offered by the general public library. Jones and several other local citizens feared the board would respond by banning or restricting literature with LGBTQ content and themes, which theyd seen happen elsewhere.

Amanda Jones poses at Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, La., on Aug. 12, 2022.
Jones, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, was alarmed and outraged by the web attacks, which came after she spoke against censorship at a Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting. Emily Kask for NBC News

In the beginning of the meeting, board member Erin Sandefur said an unnamed state official brought some inappropriate books offered by the library to her attention

The citizens of our parish contain taxpayers that are white, Black, brown, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian folks from all backgrounds and walks of life, no one part of the city should dictate what all of those other citizens get access to, Jones said at the meeting. Because you dont desire to read it or view it, it doesnt provide you with the to deny others or demand its relocation.

Jones didn’t mention any specific title in her remarks, but said its a false narrative that librarians are putting pornography in childrens sections. She also conceded that book challenges tend to be done with the very best intentions, and in the name old appropriateness.

Lunsford, who runs a conservative activist group called Citizens for a fresh Louisiana, spoke at the meeting and only restrictions on books with sexual content.

Three days following the meeting, Citizens for a fresh Louisiana posted Jones picture on Facebook and asked, How come she fighting so difficult to help keep sexually erotic and pornographic materials in the youngsters section? Lunsford also submitted records requests to Jones school, demanding usage of her personnel file and her emails and said he planned to go to her workplace, based on the suit.

On the next fourteen days, the organizations page posted several more times about Jones, at one point stating she believes that sharing erotica and instructing juveniles on sex acts is progressive.

Simultaneously, another Facebook page called Bayou Mind-set posted memes with Jones’ photo and said she actually is advocating teaching anal intercourse to 11-year-olds. The page, which includes 6,300 followers, regularly posts anti-abortion comments, misinformation about Covid vaccines and memes insulting the LGBTQ community. It later mocked her along with other librarians fighting censorship. Based on the lawsuit, Thames runs the Bayou Mind-set page.

People commented on a few of the posts with calls that she be physically assaulted, plus they circulated where she worked, screenshots show.

Its awful, its humiliating, Jones said.

She added that she was overwhelmed and didnt leave her house for 14 days, instead she had groceries delivered. She sat down with her teenage daughter to describe the memes and Facebook posts, and worried what her classmates would tell her about them. Even though people informed her these were rooting on her behalf, she said it still felt embarrassing.

But she felt compelled to fight, she said, because shes well-known in the library world and when she didnt speak out, other targeted librarians wouldn’t normally either.

If this takes 4 or 5 years, Im likely to fight these folks with this, she said. Even though I lose, I possibly could say I stood around them.

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