Judge dismisses lawsuit against Sarasota School Board over alleged sexual content in libraries

Sarasota Herald-Tribune | By Steven Walker | August 23, 2022

A judge in Sarasota County court on Monday threw out a lawsuit against the School Board over alleged sexual content in school books.

The lawsuit was filed by Robert Craft of Englewood on July 1, and the attorneys for the School Board filed a motion to dismiss it days later. Craft wanted to bring forward criminal charges against the board and Superintendent Brennan Asplen, but the legal defense for the School Board argued the lawsuit had no standing.

The original filing included a list of books he considered inappropriate, ranging from “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison to “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram Kendi.

In her dismissal, County Judge Maryann Olson Boehm agreed with the district that Craft had no standing to file suit against the School Board. Craft also petitioned to present evidence of alleged explicit materials in front of a grand jury and for a jury trial against the School Board.

However, the judge wrote that Craft’s petition had no basis in law.

Craft said he plans to appeal the ruling in the next few weeks. He said the judge was wrong to hear the petition under civil procedure instead of common law procedure. Craft also likened the dismissal to how the School Board handles public commenters.

The judge “basically failed in her oath,” he said. “She’s acting exactly as the School Board acts. They’re in synchronized step.”

Daniel DeLeo, the School Board’s legal counsel, said the ruling did not come as a surprise.

“The judge’s very clear ruling demonstrates what we have been saying all along,” he said. “This lawsuit was a waste of taxpayer money and should have never been filed.”

Previously, DeLeo said the filing was filled with language used by so-called sovereign citizens. Sovereign citizens are people who claim they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government and use litigation as a weapon, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

He also emphasized that in the ruling, the judge refers to an existing set of procedures mandated by the state and put in place by the School Board to challenge any books or materials in schools.

Under School Board policy, someone can submit a form to challenge school library materials in the county’s schools. The content is then reviewed by a board and a decision is made within 30 days.

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