Activists with the right-wing group Moms for Liberty in northwest Florida were filmed demanding that sheriff’s deputies investigate the circulation of a high school library book that one of them called “child pornography” and “a serious crime.”
“I’ve got some evidence a crime was committed,” Moms for Liberty member Jennifer Tapley is filmed telling a Santa Rosa County deputy in body camera footage taken on Oct. 25 and recently obtained by the Substack newsletter Popular Information.
The video shows Tapley, who is running for a seat on the local school board, present the young adult novel “Storm and Fury” to a deputy, along with information on specific community members she says actively oppose her group, Moms for Liberty.
“The governor says this is child pornography. It’s a serious crime,” she says of the book, referring to the fact that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has passed a series of state laws that censor certain topics and material in schools. “It’s just as serious if I handed a Playboy to [my child]. It’s just as serious, according to the law.”
Tapley cites a state law that prohibits adults from distributing “harmful materials” to minors, including obscene and pornographic materials.
A man with her, identified by Popular Information as a fellow Moms for Liberty activist, also complains about the book’s content being unlawful.
“A crime is being committed. It’s a 3rd-degree felony. And we’ve got the evidence,” he can be heard saying.
“Storm and Fury,” part of a bestselling fantasy series, features a few passages with sexual themes, including an incident in which the main character almost has sex, according to Popular Information.
Tapley argues in the video that the book shouldn’t be in circulation at the high school because, under state law, books that are challenged as inappropriate for children in the school district must be “quarantined” and reviewed by a media specialist.
“This one was supposed to be removed. It was not removed. In addition to that, a librarian checked it out to a 17-year-old student,” Tapley says.
“Storm and Fury” is not on a list of books that have been challenged in Santa Rosa County, however. Tapley shares the list of these books on her campaign website. Another list is available on the school district’s website.
District representative Dr. Tonya Shepherd confirmed to HuffPost on Wednesday that the book was never formally challenged. However, it was removed from circulation a day after Tapley complained to the sheriff’s department, which notified the district, Shepherd said.
One copy of the book is listed as “checked out” online, but it’s in the care of a media specialist who is reviewing it, according to Shepherd.
A deputy in the bodycam footage can later be heard calling Tapley’s complaint a school district matter and not one for law enforcement. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department confirmed to HuffPost on Wednesday that it is not investigating the complaints.
Moms for Liberty bills itself as a grassroots movement seeking to restore “parental rights” in government. Its efforts include censoring books in public schools that the group deems inappropriate for younger readers. Moms for Liberty was recently deemed an “anti-government extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Tapley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.