Bookshelves behind bars

Apparently, Teens Checking Out Library Books in Florida Is a ‘Felony’

In Florida, Moms for Liberty believes a teen checking out a library book constitutes a “felony.” The hate group’s members actually went to the police to report a felony and request an investigation because a 17-year-old checked out Storm and Fury at a school library.

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Unfortunately, Moms for Liberty members and other far-right extremists pulling stunts like this is nothing new. In order to get their way, these book banners often harass teachers, librarians, bookstore owners, and school board members by disrupting school board meetings, filing hundreds of book complaints, and even trying to dissolve libraries or start police investigations. Stories have arisen of these people costing libraries tens of thousands of dollars in resources, forcing staffers to work overtime, and even causing staff members to quit because of the constant harassment. Often, just one person is responsible for up to 100 book challenges in a single district, and those challenges can take libraries years to comb through.

Meanwhile, Florida has made it increasingly easy for MFL and its ilk to be nuisances and place unnecessary strain on librarians and teachers. The state has passed book-banning legislation, forcing schools to vet every single book for inappropriate or “pornographic” material, and immediately discontinue any books with such content. Many teachers have been forced to simply pull books from shelves while scrambling to figure out how to vet all their resources to comply with the laws. Additionally, considering that many conservatives claim having an LGBTQ+ character constitutes “pornography,” most teachers and librarians don’t even know which books might find them at odds with the law.

This is how Florida librarians were recently accused of a felony.

Moms for Liberty go to the cops over a teen checking out a fantasy book

Moms for Liberty members Jennifer Tapley and Tom Gurski showed up at the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office to report a “felony” on October 25. The “felony” was that a 17-year-old checked out Storm and Fury from Jay High School’s library. Storm and Fury is a young adult fantasy novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout that follows a girl with unique powers in a world inhabited by demons and gargoyles. In bodycam footage, Gurski and Tapley admitted this wasn’t their first time reporting that “pornography” was being distributed to students. They had also visited the Milton police department to demand an investigation over a book called Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List at the Milton School Library.

Now, they wanted the police to investigate Jay High School over Storm and Fury, a book Gurski claimed was “definitely porn” under Florida’s laws. “The only reason we are here is a crime is being committed,” said Gurski. “It’s a third-degree felony. And we’ve got the evidence.” The “evidence” was that a 17-year-old checked out the book, which Tapley stated was equivalent to if she “handed a Playboy to [her child] right now, right here, in front of you. It’s just as serious, according to the law.” Tapley informed the department that she wanted police to threaten the librarians with criminal charges if they continued allowing minors to check out these books. Fortunately, the police department quickly closed the case after referring the complaint to the school district.

Armentrout responded to the bizarre situation, saying it was surprising 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 also explained how the book’s main purpose is to raise awareness for degenerative eye disease, which the main protagonist experiences. While the book does have some kissing scenes, there is no sexually explicit content. Although it’s fortunate that the Santa Rosa police didn’t move forward with charges or an investigation, the Milton School Library investigation remains open. Since Tapley and Gurski seem to be making the rounds to police departments across Florida to harass multiple schools, it wouldn’t be surprising if more of these investigations and cases pop up.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Tapley and Gurski are correct that these librarians could’ve been charged with a third-degree felony if the book in question was found to be “pornographic” under Florida’s archaic laws. Now, we have proof on camera that Moms of Liberty are falsely labeling books “pornographic” and attempting to criminalize librarians and turn a teen exercising their freedom to check out a library book into a crime scene. It used to be that teens expressing an interest in reading was something to be celebrated. We are truly living in dark times when it’s now viewed as a “felony” worthy of a police investigation.

(featured image: epicimages, Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.