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New Jersey Parents Sued By Librarian After They Called Out Graphic “Porn” Books In School Library

Haley Kennington

A school librarian is suing New Jersey parents after they spoke out against sexualized books in their child’s school library. The parents believe the lawsuit is to intentionally cause them financial distress.

Two mothers, Christina Balestriere and Kristen Cobo, were appalled when they realized no less than 13 radical gender theory books with explicitly sexual content were found on bookshelves in Roxbury High School in New Jersey.

The school’s librarian, Roxana M. Russo Caivano, made a special “banned books display” in the library that highlighted LGBTQ stories. This included “Gender Queer,” which has been pulled from school bookshelves across the country due to its explicit content.

The “banned book display” at Roxbury High was part of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week, which originally launched in 1981. The AMA’s Top 13 Most Challenged Books of 2022 can be found here.

Balestriere and Cobo expressed their concerns about the books to both Caivano and the school administration. However, the librarian doubled down.

Rather than addressing the parents, Caivano instead used the district’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts to push the very books parents asked her to remove.

 

 

After no action was taken, the two mothers took their concerns to the school board in August 2022, to address books containing what they describe as “hardcore pornography.”

“We are fighting against the sexualization of children in schools,” Cobo told The Publica. “We have one chance to get this right with our children. We are the last line of defense against this agenda.”

The school board addressed some of the sexually explicit books specifically in emails from fall 2022.

In one email from September, Superintendent Loretta Radulic said the graphic novel “Let’s Talk About It” had been pulled from shelves. However, it was still available in the library for students with parental permission to check out the book.

Radulic added the district was reviewing its book selection and would be updating the Board of Education (BOE).

In November, Superintendent Radulic sent a follow-up email stating the board would discuss and review several more books. These included “Flamer and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”.

At this time, several questionable books still remained available to children regardless of parental consent.

During a Board of Education meeting on March 6, 2023, parents continued to protest the inappropriate books that remained in Roxbury libraries.

Two weeks later, Balestriere, Cobo and other residents who had raised concerns at the March BOE meeting were served with a defamation suit filed by Caivano.

The lawsuit says Caivano “has been the target of a civil conspiracy to defame her character and reputation,” starting on September 20, 2022, when a parent made a Facebook post that claimed Caivano had “included pornography” in the Roxbury High School Library collection.

Caivano is being represented by her own husband, Attorney Anthony Caivano, who also defended his wife on a Facebook post.

“My wife, Roxana is a media specialist/librarian here in Roxbury for 15 years. She has had multiple book challenges this year from a posse of book burners, calling her vile names along the way. We are going to defeat this reactionary bullshit,” he wrote.

Cobo was disturbed by these accusations, noting that all that parents wanted was for sexually explicit content to be removed from the library.

“We’re not asking to burn books or limit educational resources. We are asking for sexually explicit inappropriate content to be removed from schools,” she said. “We want to restore parents’ fundamental right to manage the education and upbringing [of] their children. Our goal is to engage and educate parents who are not aware of what is going on or don’t feel they have the strength to use their voice.”

Despite this, Anthony Caivano views his wife as the victim in the situation. He told the NJ Spotlight News that she is suffering through “heinous vile vitriol” on the Internet. She is allegedly being called names such as criminal, predator and groomer.

“Free speech, it’s ironic. We’re talking about the free speech that students should have to these volumes, and then this group of parents who believe it’s their First Amendment right to go out and slander somebody,” he said.

The lawsuit, which has been obtained by The Publica, was filed on March 22, 2023. The suit specifically references the March 6 Board of Education meeting where three parents spoke. It claims their comments were “false, reckless and maliciously made.”

It also says that the parents “put Caivano in a false light, attacked her credentials and employment status” and caused her emotional distress by stating she has engaged in “luring children with sexually explicit materials.”

The parents’ legal counsel, Corinne Mullen, said that the offending comments were made in the context of BOE meetings.

“To the extent that they were made there, our position is that they’re privileged. We have those meetings so that there can be free and unfettered debate,’” she told NJ Spotlight News.

Anthony Caivano alleges his wife has been part of the community for 45 years and enjoyed an “unassailable reputation.”

He said her reputation was “purposefully, systematically and maliciously attacked by the defendants named herein.”

The lawsuit goes on to describe how Caivano has suffered damage to her reputation and “severe and permanent emotional injuries.” Caivano is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, including interest and costs of the suit.

The parents launched a GiveSendGo campaign to help with legal costs. It has raised just over $12,000 as of writing this story.

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Haley Kennington

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