Moms for Liberty members call cops on librarians after teen checks out YA novel

Book Bans

Two Moms for Liberty members in Florida called police on a number of school librarians, claiming that they had distributed “pornography” to minors by allowing a teen to check out a YA novel.

Jennifer Tapley, a member of the far-right parental rights group and SPLC-named extremist organisation, contacted Santa Rosa County police on 25 October, claiming to have evidence that “a crime was committed”.

In an audio recording obtained by Popular Information, Tapley told authorities that “pornography was given to a minor in a school”, and that she would like to “make a report with somebody and turn over the evidence.”

The evidence in question was a copy of the YA novel Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

The fantasy novel tells the story of 18-year-old Trinity Marrow, who is able to communicate with ghosts and spirits. It includes one scene in which two characters make out and it almost leads to sex.

HarperCollins lists the novel for ages 14+, while Barnes and Noble recommends it for ages 14 to 18.

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After learning that the novel had been checked out from Jay High School library by a 17-year-old student, Tapley decided it was imperative that she call the police.

Accompanied by fellow Moms for Liberty member Tom Gurski, Tapley went down to the Sheriff’s Office to give a statement.

A pile of books tied up together in the corner of a room.
Florida is among the biggest book-ban offenders in the US. (Getty)

Gurski is heard in the recording, obtained by Popular Information, saying: “The only reason we are here is a crime is being committed. It’s a third-degree felony. And we’ve got the evidence.”

Tapley adds: “The governor says this is child pornography. It’s a serious crime. 

“It’s just as serious as if I handed a Playboy to [my child] right now, right here, in front of you. It’s just as serious, according to the law.”

According to Florida law, books with sexual content are only banned if that content is “harmful to minors” and is “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material or conduct for minors.”

It is, in fact, a third-degree felony to violate that law, and can be punished with up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

However, Storm and Fury – the first book in Armentrout’s The Harbinger series – predominantly deals with fighting demons to protect humankind, not sex.

A pile of books on top of one another.
Moms for Liberty members tried to get police involved when a teen checked out a YA Novel. (Getty)

In the 2020-2021 academic year, Storm and Fury was recommended by the Florida Association of Media in Education (FAME)’s “Teen Reads” list.

FAME’s “Teen Reads” list is, according to its website, a list of books that will “engage” teens and “provide a spur to their critical thinking.”

Speaking to Popular Information, author Armentrout said that she was surprised to learn that we are “living in an era where, apparently, some adults find it appropriate to contact the police over a fictional book involving gargoyles.”

She noted that the book was in no way written to “incite sexual excitement”, but to “educate people on a little-known disease in a fun, suspenseful, and adventurous way.”

The main character in the novel, Trinity Marrow, lives with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that Armentrout also has.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office referred Tapley and Gurski to the director of safety at Santa Rosa County Florida School District before the case was closed.

Commenting on the incident, Kasey Meehan, a director at PEN America, told the publication: “To see the orchestrated campaign to remove books from schools escalate to a police station is shocking.

“Professional librarians apply sensible measures to curate their collections for diverse audiences of readers, and they should not be punished for making knowledge accessible to students that falls well short of the well-established legal standards for obscene materials.”