Stop School Porn: Book criteria for public schools, obscenity law changes may be coming

Wake School Board Member: “I'm asking news outlets; can you show this in your newspaper or your broadcasts? If not, why is it okay for our minors to read it?”

Stop school porn, obscene books
NC Values President Tammy Fitzgerald, flanked by legislators, addresses media at the "Stop School Porn" press conference in Raleigh. (A.P. Dillon / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Lawmakers, school board members and advocacy groups called for changes to state laws governing obscenity and book selection criteria in public schools at a May 15 press conference held by the conservative nonprofit NC Values Coalition.

NC Values President Tami Fitzgerald said obscene and sexually graphic materials and books have been a big issue in recent years and that “procedural holdups by activists school board members” have kept inappropriate materials in the state’s schools.

“Now it’s time for a statewide solution,” said Fitzgerald. “We should adopt a statewide criteria for book selection to ensure books are educationally and age-appropriate and to require schools to comply with North Carolina’s obscenity laws.”

Fitzgerald later told North State Journal that language would likely be added to an existing bill due to short session procedural constraints. She was uncertain of when the proposals would be made and did not give specifics of what exact language would be included.

Janet Peterson with the Pavement Education Project (PEP) said the legislature needs to close a loophole in the state’s obscenity laws that exempts schools and school employees.

“As a lifelong Democrat and a retired teacher, I was shocked at what our team found when we began investigating school libraries throughout our state,” said Peterson, adding the “problem is pervasive extending from the coast to the mountains.”

“Our laws must change to hold our schools accountable to the same standards across the board,” said Peterson. “A statewide standard or criteria that provides direction for material selection for instructional and supplemental use is sorely needed and it’s needed now; we need to protect our children.”

Joining the event were House Reps. Ken Fontenot (R-Wilson), Neal Jackson (R-Randolph) and Jeff Zenger (R-Forsyth). Each lawmaker hinted at upcoming legislative changes to obscenity laws and book selection criteria.

Zenger said legislation will create book criteria “with penalties.”

During the Q&A, North State Journal followed up and asked Fitzgerald about possible penalties. She indicated a minimum penalty of “$1,000 per occurrence” for violating book selection criteria.

Fitzgerald also said the proposed legislation “will give parents the right to sue that will give them a minimum penalty for the school” for violating the law once enacted.

“If you look at this material, if I or any other adult were to hand this to a child outside of school property, it would violate obscenity laws,” Fontenot said. “And some of it would even count as child pornography. That’s right. How does it make a modicum of sense to have that same material able to be distributed in a library? It does not.”

Jackson said everyone should be united in protecting children.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is not a racial issue. You look at every poll out there and without fail Democrats and Republicans agree in protecting our children,” Jackson said. “So we are united and we ask for your support at protecting our children from those who would do us harm.”

Gays Against Groomers of North Carolina Chapter President Brian Talbert said he came to speak at the press event to “make our voices clear to the General Assembly that the time has come to remove sexually explicit material from our schools” and “we need a statewide solution.”

“The predators are using gay inclusion and acceptance as a gateway to bring this filth into our schools and into the minds of our children,” said Talbert. “We will never allow that — as Gays Against Groomers — to ever let that go unchallenged in this state.”

Talbert told North State Journal he is glad the issue is “finally getting some attention.” He also said that as a gay man, he has been targeted for speaking up on the topic, including antifa showing up at his home and vandalizing his car.

“I’ve been gay 54 years and I’m now considered homophobic according to the mainstream gay community just because I stand against this crap,” said Talbert. He added that there is a lot more support against these type of materials in the gay community but most are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.

“You know, I’m not afraid. I encourage gay people to start speaking up,” said Talbert. “We’ve got to be on the front lines of this because this includes us and this is not the legacy that we want. Those books over there … that has nothing to do with my lifestyle.”

Catawba County School Board Member Michelle Teague and Wake County School Board member Cheryl Caulfield also both gave remarks.

Teague said she had been fighting to get sexually graphic books out of schools for the past three years and state statute needs to be “stronger” and have “more consistent language.”

Caulfield said the books in question are insulting to certain groups and are about “adult agendas.”

“It’s insulting to the black and LGBTQ communities that this is their representation. There are many ways to represent them without using vulgar sexual content,” Caulfield said of the books. “Our children are not begging for this. It’s adults making the decisions and schools adding them or requesting grants to put them in the schools.

“I’m asking news outlets: Can you show this in your newspaper or your broadcasts? If not, why is it OK for our minors to read it? To our publishers:  You can do better.”

About A.P. Dillon 1309 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_