Two New Jersey moms are being sued by a high school librarian after the parents complained about a book with what they say contains age-inappropriate material.
Kristen Cobo and Christina Balestriere of Roxbury, New Jersey are named in the suit by Roxbury High School librarian Roxana Russo Caivano, who accuses them of defamation, according to Fox News. Tom Seretis and Catrina Albo are also named in the suit.
Caivano is claiming “severe and permanent emotional injuries” due to criticisms by parents about her judgment in keep that book and several others with age-inappropriate material in the library.
Specifically, Cobo and Balestriere are accused of defamation by saying that Caivano was luring children with pornography and accusing Caivano of being a child predator, exposing children to pornographic material, and endangering the welfare of children, said the suit.
The comments in question in the lawsuit were made at a Mar. 6 school board meeting, where the parents were invited to address concerns about the materials in the library after months of inaction by school officials, the parents told Fox News.
The moms originally complained after they discovered a graphic novel called “Gender Queer: A Memoir” in the school library.
The book is a coming-of-age story about the author, Maia Kobabe, and the exploration of gender identity and sexuality.
“We were arguing [that] we’re in the fight against the sexualization of our children in America and especially in New Jersey,” Cobo told Fox News. “And we feel that this content should not be made available to minor children, especially in the school district where our children are quickly rising. And that’s what we spoke to.
“We spoke to the fact that these are our children, nobody else’s. And we have the right to direct their upbringing and those books do not match the morals and values that I teach in my home.”
When asked by Fox News if they felt the lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate the parents into silence, Balestriere answered in the affirmative.
“Absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind that that’s what this is,” she said. “It’s just to, in my opinion, scare not only us but from other parents speaking up and probably just to hit us with as many legal fees as possible.”
One indication that the lawsuit is purely harassing, and not truly a legal threat, is that Caivano is represented in the suit by her husband, who apparently is an attorney, according to Tap Into Roxbury. Caivano, thus, is not incurring any costs in filing the suit beyond court filing fees.
The parents, on the other hand, have paid real money to retain a First Amendment lawyer, who has moved to have the suit dismissed as “frivolous.”
“Parents should have the right to have a voice in whether their children should be exposed to sexualized content in the books chosen by public school employees,” Corinne Mullen, attorney for the moms, said in a statement, according to Patch.com. “This lawsuit inhibits open and robust debate on the issues as we as a nation must face on the appropriateness of content to which our children are exposed.”
Mullen also claims that as a government employee, Caivano is subject to open criticism and cannot use defamation and libel laws against the defendants.