📖 NJ high school librarian is suing for defamation after parent attacks on character

📖 A suit says the group angry over books attacked the librarian’s character

📖 A GOP state senator defends parents, saying they are fighting "woke policies”

ROXBURY — A public high school librarian has filed a lawsuit against some area parents for calling her a child predator and claiming that she has allowed “pornography” to be available on high school library shelves.

Now, some of the parents being sued have been defended by Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, who applauded two mothers for “fighting woke policies.” The controversy stemmed from books in the high school library.

“These moms should have the right to raise concerns about their children being exposed to sexually explicit and highly offensive materials in their schools,” Pennacchio said in a written statement regarding Kristen Cobo and Christina Balestriere.

'Objections should be done with civility,' Roxbury librarian's husband/attorney says

Thomas Seritis, Katrina Albo, Balestriere and Cobo — residents of Succasunna and Flanders — were named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in March by Roxana Russo Caivano.

Russo Caivano has been “a well known resident connected to the community for 45 years,” according to the suit, in which she is represented by her attorney husband  Anthony Caivano.

She has worked for the school district since 2007 and has been the media/library specialist at the high school — which she previously attended as a student — since 2010.

“Everyone has the right to raise objections to literature in their children’s schools. While Ms. Cobo and Ms. Balestriere have no children in Roxbury High School, and they freely acknowledge that virtually all students have cell phones with access to the internet, they still object to the inclusion of books like 'Gender Queer' because of its LGBTQ content,” Caivano said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5 on Monday.

“I am not aware of how many, if any High School parents object to the memoir, but they would have the right to object if they believe the material is inappropriate. In either case, I am sure Senator Pennacchio would agree with me, that the objections should be done with civility, and slander, libel and defamation or character assassination of librarians is never appropriate.”

"The objections should be done with civility, and slander, libel and defamation or character assassination of librarians is never appropriate.”
Roxbury High School (Google Maps) (1)
Roxbury High School (Google Maps)

Some books found in HS library, including graphic novels, called 'pervasively vulgar'

According to the suit from Russo Caivano, during a Board of Education meeting in March, the defendants said that the librarian was luring children with pornography and accused the librarian of being a child predator by exposing children to pornographic material and endangering the welfare of children.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and damages to Russo Caivano's professional reputation.

The Roxbury Parental Rights in Education website, linked to the defendants, called a number of books “Pornography, obscenity, pervasively vulgar. Regardless of how you describe them, there are books in Roxbury Public High School that are not age or school appropriate.”

The website was referenced in a fundraising effort at the religious crowdsource site GiveSendGo, which called the defamation lawsuit “frivolous.”

Titles they specifically object to include the following:

📚 "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe
📚 “Let’s Talk About It“ by Erika Moen & Matthew Nolan
📚 “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson
📚 "Flamer" by Mike Curato
📚 "Me And Earl And The Dying Girl" by Jesse Andrews
📚 "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel
📚 "Milk And Honey" by Rupi Kaur
📚 "All Boys Aren’t Blue" by George Johnson
📚 "Blankets: A Graphic Novel" by Craig Thompson
📚 "Oryx And Crake: A Novel" by Margaret Atwood

'Woke sexual indoctrination of our kids'

“It should not be controversial to suggest that cartoon depictions of young children engaging in sexual acts do not belong in our school libraries,” Pennacchio said.

“Unfortunately, we were warned when we held our Senate Republican hearing on parental rights last year that this woke sexual indoctrination of our kids would continue to escalate, and that has proven to be the case. I stand by Kristen Cobo and Christina Balestriere for their efforts to safeguard their children.”

Pennacchio and Cobo were joined at a recent meeting by Shawn Hyland, director of Advocacy for the New Jersey Family Policy Center.

The conservative lobbyist group has a self-billed mission “to see a state where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished.”

In February, Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic announced she was retiring effective June 30.

The district has since launched a search for a replacement superintendent.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

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