Moms for Liberty report Florida librarians to police

Moms for Liberty report Florida librarians to police

Controversial reporting sparks debate over censorship and advocacy in school libraries

by Suswati Basu

In a startling turn of events, two members of the right-wing activist group Moms for Liberty have reported several Florida school librarians to the police, alleging the distribution of “pornography” to minors. Their claims have sent shockwaves through the community, raising concerns about censorship, freedom of expression, and the role of advocacy groups in school libraries.

Popular Information shares video of members of Moms for Liberty in Florida reporting librarians to the police

The controversy unveiled

The issue began when Jennifer Tapley, a member of the Santa Rosa County chapter of Moms for Liberty and a candidate for school board, reportedly contacted the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office on October 25. In an audio recording of the call obtained by Popular Information, Tapley claimed to have evidence of “pornography given to a minor in a school” and sought to make an official report.

Read: Who are Moms for Liberty? Unveiling extremist ties behind book bans

However, she hesitated to provide her name out of fear that “people could look it up.” Tapley revealed that her involvement started when she saw a video on Facebook during the summer, describing it as “really disgusting.” Later, she joined Moms for Liberty, which she discovered was addressing the presence of what they considered “shocking pornographic books” in local school libraries.

Accompanied by Tom Gurski, another active member of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, Tapley met with Deputy Sheriff Tyler Mabire and another officer. In a body cam video obtained by Popular Information, Gurski declared, “A crime is being committed. It’s a 3rd-degree felony. And we’ve got the evidence,” adding that “the governor says this is child pornography.” Tapley echoed this sentiment, claiming that distributing the book was “just as serious as if I handed a Playboy to [my child] right now, right here, in front of you.”

Moms for Liberty activist Jennifer Tapley writes on Facebook: "I HAVE AN ASK: The Antifa-style tactics are in full force from the out-of-state activists, y'all! In order to continue to fight for our kids effectively, I need to fund this campaign. If you can give $5 right now at, please do so. If you can give more, that would be even better, but every dollar counts!"
Moms for Liberty activist Jennifer Tapley accuses Popular Information of “Antifa-style” tactics, after she allegedly reported librarians to the police.

Since the report came out on Monday, Tapley accused Popular Information of “Antifa-style tactics” on Facebook.

The book in question

The “pornography” they referred to is actually a popular young adult novel titled “Storm and Fury” by Jennifer L. Armentrout. However, the book, recommended by the Florida Association of Media in Education (FAME) and Barnes & Noble for teenagers, mainly revolves around humans and gargoyles battling demons. While the novel does contain some passages with sexual themes, it predominantly focuses on the adventure and suspense aspects.

According to the newsletter, author Jennifer L. Armentrout expressed her surprise at the situation, emphasising that her book aimed to educate people about retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease she shares with the main character. She also clarified that the book was not intended to “incite sexual excitement.”

The legal perspective

Florida law only deems distributing material with sexual content as “harmful to minors” if it predominantly appeals to prurient interests and is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community. Given the book’s focus on demon fighting and the fact that it’s recommended by professionals for high school students, it does not meet this legal threshold. Meanwhile, a PEN America report from earlier this year found that there has been a 33% increase in book bans during the 2022-23 school year compared to the previous year, with Florida leading the way.

Targeted librarians and their response

Tapley and Gurski pointed fingers at specific librarians, accusing them of promoting the book and supporting liberal causes. They claimed that Ruth Witter, the head librarian for the county, was affiliated with a group called “Santa Rosa County Stop Moms for Liberty.” However, they did not mention that Witter also followed conservative pages on Facebook.

Read: Florida school district ‘bans books with LGBTQ characters entirely’

Efforts to criminalise the librarians’ actions have been met with scepticism. Tapley also indicated that she hoped the librarians would be told they “can’t do this” and that charges would only follow if they continued. She stressed that she did not want anyone’s life to be ruined.

Response from advocacy groups

Advocacy groups like PEN America and the Florida Freedom to Read Project condemned the actions of Moms for Liberty members. They argued that librarians should not be punished for making knowledge accessible and that the tactics employed by the advocacy group amounted to an effort to “bully the district into sacrificing access to protected speech.”

Hence, the situation involving Moms for Liberty’s reporting of Florida librarians has sparked a debate over freedom of expression, censorship, and the responsibilities of advocacy groups in shaping school library content. As this story unfolds, it raises critical questions about the boundaries of acceptable activism within educational institutions and the potential consequences of overzealous advocacy.

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ellisnelson November 8, 2023 - 11:21 pm

It’s no longer enough (apparently) to control what your own children can read but you now must control what others have access to. Librarians are on the front lines of the free speech debate. It’s a ridiculous time in history.

Suswati Basu November 8, 2023 - 11:24 pm

I couldn’t agree more, we’re living in a dystopia at the moment. Kafka and Orwell probably had no idea they were predicting the future. I’m sure those books are going to be banned too.

sandys5 November 9, 2023 - 2:18 pm

I saw this on the news today and again, I shake my head. Why individuals feel they have to inject themselves into everyone else’s life? Control, control, control….

Suswati Basu November 9, 2023 - 2:21 pm

It’s bizarre how they think they can ingratiate into others lives this way.

ellisnelson November 9, 2023 - 4:26 pm

Exactly! The group should be called Moms for the Liberty to Suppress Others Rights.

Suswati Basu November 9, 2023 - 4:29 pm

The same people who call for the right to bare arms. Very worrying indeed.

The Fight for Free Speech: | ELLIS NELSON BOOKS November 8, 2023 - 11:23 pm

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