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A New Jersey librarian has filed a defamation lawsuit against a group of parents over comments they made about her for including in the school library sexually explicit books so graphic that most media outlets will not run images or content from them.
In her complaint, Roxbury High School librarian Roxanne Russo Caivano alleges that the parents stated at both public hearings and on a community Facebook page that she has “engaged in luring children with sexually explicit materials,” called her a “child predator,” and accused her of exposing minors to “pornographic material.”
Caivano also repeatedly said in a TV interview that the parents called her a “pornographer,” although the lawsuit does not allege that they directly called her that.
Anthony Caivano, an attorney who is representing his wife in the lawsuit, told The Epoch Times that the documented statements made by the parents are enough to constitute slander under New Jersey law.
“They were false in nature,” he said, “that’s defaming someone’s reputation.”
Corrine Mullen, a First Amendments Rights attorney representing the named parents in the suit, told The Epoch Times she disagrees, saying the parents’ comments are protected speech because they were stated as opinions and not as facts.
She also said statements that were made by parents have not necessarily been proven to be false, which is one of the primary tests in a defamation suit.
“We know the parents take the position that these are sexually graphic. And they shouldn’t be in the kids’ high school library,” said Mullen. “I don’t really have an opinion on that. But here’s the thing, you can’t sue for that.”
Caivano’s lawsuit could have a national rippling effect, as school officials and parents are increasingly at odds over what’s appropriate in schools across America.
A lawsuit filed last year by a Louisiana school librarian on similar grounds was dismissed by Judge Erika Sledge, a Republican on Louisiana’s 21st Judicial District Court, who ruled the comments made against the librarian were “matters of opinion and not fact.”
The parents also discovered that Caivano had done some name-calling of her own.
In a Facebook post attacking Florida’s ban on sexually explicit books in schools, she wrote: “Teachers in Florida have now opted to do away with their classroom libraries instead of taking the risk of being called out by fascist parents.”
Tom Seretis, one of the named parents in the lawsuit, told The Epoch Times he found Caivano’s portrayal of the parents’ comment as “really disgusting”—”especially ironic” given the content of the books she chose for the library.
“These books have such sexually explicit, pervasively vulgar content that they can’t be shown on TV or print, yet they will allow a 14-year-old to pick them out in a school library,” he said.
One book ordered by Caivano for the school library features a storyline that promotes a sexual encounter between an adult male and a young boy.
Kristen Cobo, another parent named in the suit, told The Epoch Times, that she was especially disturbed by Caivano’s choice of the book “Me and Earl,” and “The Dying Girl.”
Sexual excerpts from the book are too obscene to recount and include what are described as degrading images and content of women.
The book was dubbed “literary porn” by Common Sense Media and identified as one of the most banned books by the American Library Association.
“It’s horrific,” said Cobo, a Roxbury native and a mother of two young children, “where are the morals anymore?”
Cobo said that she “is disgusted” that the liberal media is already spinning the matter into an anti-LGBT controversy.
In a piece aired by a local ABC-affiliate TV station, the two news anchors labeled the “center of the controversy” as “sex education and gender identification.”
Seretis, who described himself as a Christian libertarian who coaches baseball, said when he asked a local newspaper doing a story on Caivano’s lawsuit to run pictures and excerpts from the books in question, they refused.
“This is not a matter of Right or Left. It’s not a matter of political spectrums. This is a matter of common sense,” he said.
Stacy Langton, a Virginia mom who waged a similar battle in her school district in Fairfax County, told The Epoch Times, she sympathizes with the New Jersey parents.
After she objected to the same books the New Jersey parents have objected to, the mother of six said she received death threats and believes she was the target of a covert federal investigation.
Like the New Jersey parents, school officials allegedly tried to intimidate her into silence.
When she began reading from the book “Lawn Boy” during public comment, the school board shut off her mic with one member commenting, “I’m sorry there are children in the audience here.”
“These books unquestionably promote grooming of children,” Langton told The Epoch Times.
In the lawsuit filed against the New Jersey parents, Caivano said his wife has been the “target of a civil conspiracy to defame her character and reputation … by equating books in the library collection with hard-core pornography and pornographer.”
He pointed out that in her 15 years as a school librarian, his wife “enjoyed a reputation of integrity, professionalism, and competency in her profession.”