Editor’s Note: This article may be updated with additional information as it becomes available
The Indian River County School Board Voted 5-0 on August 28th, 2023 at their monthly General Business Meeting to remove 30 books that contained obscene pornographic content. Removal of pornographic materials is pending a double check to ensure the books have the excerpts in them that were read at Monday’s meeting.
The motion for removal was made by School Board Member Dr. Gene Posca MD (District 1 – Vero Beach), with an amendment for the double check made by School Board Vice Chairman Teri Barenborg (District 4- Vero Beach).
The books were removed as a result of the advocacy efforts of Moms for Liberty – Indian River County, Florida, and their supporters utilizing a newly enacted law in 2023, House Bill 1069. The new law requires a public school library book to be removed if the board stops the reading of its content for pornography during public comment of a school board business meeting.
The supporters of Moms for Liberty – Indian River County, Florida read excerpts from previously challenged books containing obscene pornographic content. These books were allowed to remain on school library shelves in February 2022 when the board approved them with a 4-1 vote. Board member, Jackie Rosario, was the holdout. The district is in civil court over how the first controversial review process was handled in 2021-22. Recently elected board member, Dr. Gean Posca MD, called for the motion on Monday that led to a unanimous vote for removal. Posca took office as a School Board Member in November 2022, after the February 2022 4-1 vote to put the obscene pornographic books back on the shelves.
The reading of the obscene books was to trigger the new law, House Bill 1069. “It took us almost two years to get many pornographic and sexually explicit content books off the shelves in IRC and we advocated on a local and state level to do so,” said Jennifer Pippin, Chairman of Moms for Liberty – Indian River, Florida. “In the end, the parents, grandparents, and community members used common sense and laws to rid the school libraries of graphic rape, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and more from three school board members who voted in February 2022 to keep them on the shelves: Peggy Jones, Brian Barefoot, and Teri Barenborg. We never gave up and will continue to advocate the best for children and families here in IRC and across the country.”
Each time someone spoke at public input reading an excerpt, School Board Chairman Dr. Peggy Jones Ed.D (Vero Beach – District 3) stopped the speaker from talking when an excerpt was deemed obscene. She either stopped them completely from reading further, or, gave a content warning in case young children were listening. Jones’s actions raise questions about why books with obscene pornographic content are allowed in Indian River Schools when said reading materials can’t even be read out loud at a public government meeting.
Notably, the Indian River County School District is not subject to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations regarding the books with obscene pornographic content being read at one of their public school board business meetings. The District broadcasts its meetings over public access television.
“I’m glad that the board voted unanimously to remove the books with the content that was read here during public comment. Pornography does not belong in Indian River County Schools,” said Moms for Liberty – Indian River, Florida Policy Director Thomas Kenny (District 4 – Vero Beach). Kenny previously ran for the District 4 Seat on the School Board of Indian River County in 2022.
Local Private School Principal and Pastor Rev. Dr. John Vacchiano said during his public comment their are four types of obscenity can be illegal, per the United States Supreme Court, which are indecent material, material harmful to minors, obscenity, and child pornography. Vacchiano said the obscene excerpts read at the School Board meeting certainly fall into the category of indecent material.
Vacchiano cited many concerning statistics about adolescents and the viewing of pornography, such as adolescents who view pornography are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and have anxiety and depression. He ultimately called to “rid and cleanse anything that would be detrimental to the minds, bodies, souls, and spirits of students” in the School District. He ended his remarks by saying “We will be held accountable for what we do and don’t do in the nurturing and protecting of our children.”
Vacchiano is the Principal of Crosstyle Academy, a local private Christian K-12 School, and an expert on American History and the U.S. Constitution.
There were points during public comment that caused tension during the meeting. Citizens were visibly upset at the school board’s actions over handling the obscene books being read at the podium. Board Chair, Dr. Peggy Jones, vocally addressed the room that she was considering emptying the audience, only allowing the called speaker in to address the board. Jones ultimately recessed the meeting for 10 minutes which calmed down the room.
CItizens who read excerpts expressed concern the books could inspire someone to commit an act of rape or bring out harm in someone who has experienced such an act. Parent and TGI Now Co-Host John Corapi expressed during his public comment every person in the room would want the obscene books removed. Referring to a media report announcing Jones re-election campaign, Corapi addressed her as “Ms. Rushmore” when she didn’t like how he engaged the audience during his public comment. Corapi called for unity among the community and encouraged residents to speak when issues like obscene books are brought up in public schools in Indian River County.
Retired Pastor Rev. Peter Heilemann had choice words for the Indian River County School Board on having the graphic obscene books in district schools, calling them “worse than the diapers from his Grandkids.” He expressed concern the books could inspire a student to commit an act of rape.
Heilemann’s wife, Rev. Susan Heilemann, also a retired pastor, had spoken before him and asked if the obscene excerpts can’t be read as adults in a polite environment, why are they available for school children to read. She called reading the excerpts out loud verbal sexual abuse for whoever hears it being read and cited her experience as being trained and certified in sexual healing by the American Association of Christian Counselors. Reverend Heilemann partially read one of the excerpts. She commented it “glorifies rape” and was so visibly upset by its content she could not finish reading. She has counseled many women about sexual abuse and rape, calling the book a “terrible presentation” by the author who was presenting such a horrible act as “inspiring or empowering when it is something children should not be reading.” Continuing she said “women I have counseled have not come away from such activity without being severely harmed.”
Hispanic Republicans of Indian River President Sandra Rivera spoke at public input, calling the books disgusting and demonic. She has three Grandchildren in the Indian River County School System. County Resident, Bill Griffin, felt so strongly about his opposition to the obscene books that he said “I have one thing to say: MAY THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE PURVEYORS OF THE SMUT UPON OUR CHILDREN, MAY YOU ROT IN HELL.”
Activist Pastor Removed by School Board Chairman for Breaking Decorum as a Form of Protest
Toward the end of public comment, advocate Pastor Rev. John K. Amanchukwu Sr. spoke at public comment in support of Moms for Liberty – Indian River County, Florida. Amanchukwu is African-American. Amanchukwu was almost skipped over for public comment when his public input form was misplaced. Some have suspected this was done on purpose, as Amanchukwu has suspected, and was “deeply offended” his name was left out.
When Amanchukwu spoke, he said African Americans never benefitted from slavery as African Americans don’t benefit from Abortion, saying Planned Parenthood has killed more black babies than lynching in the 20th Century. He specifically called out Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, for her horrid plot to exterminate black people through abortions.
Amanchukwu had read an excerpt from one of the obscene books and as the School Board Chairman Jones tried to stop him from reading obscene content, Amanchukwu kept on reading the excerpt.
Jones had Assistant Superintendent Scott Bass take the microphone from Amanchukwu, later giving it back to him. When he took the microphone, the head of District security, John Teske, came up to him at the podium. Amanchukwu didn’t back down, repeatedly saying he has a right to read. He also asked for the microphone back. Jones had threatened to remove Amanchukwu if he didn’t stop with his insistence of being able to speak freely.
Amanchukwu said the children of the Indian River County School District deserve better than what the current School Board have been providing as leadership to the students in the District and said it is wrong what the District has been doing, by allowing the obscene books to be in Indian River County schools.
Ultimately Jones had Amanchukwu removed from the building, with him saying “allow the world to see you remove me for reading the pornographic books allowed in the School District” and said, “Dr. Peggy Jones this is not right.” He called out Jones for effectively removing a Black Pastor for exposing wrongdoing in a public school district. When Amanchukwu was escorted out of the room, he was given a standing ovation from the audience.
Amanchukwu spoke with a small crowd out in the School District of Indian River County Administrative Building’s Parking Lot regarding what had just occurred and what the United States as a Country needs to be doing for the betterment of its future.
In a statement to Indian River News, Pastor John Amanchukwu said regarding the obscene pornographic books being in Indian River County Schools:
“It’s evil to have the speaker fill out his paperwork, go through the process, and be denied the opportunity to speak. They intentionally hid my paperwork because they didn’t want to hear from me. I am the leading voice in America speaking out at School Board Meetings. They call me the ‘Book Banning Pastor’ and I wear that with a badge of honor. But here’s the problem. The same people who say we want to ban books are the same people who sought to ban the Bible. Before they banned the Bible, we were not in this mess. They got rid of the 10 Commandments [they are referring to U.S. Supreme Court Case Stone v. Graham (1980) that removed the 10 Commandments from Public Schools and related actions across the United States], they try to take prayer out of school, they would not allow us to read the Bible and now America is in trouble. I’m not out here simply trying to ban books, we want to get rid of filth, we want to get rid of junk, we want our children to have a chance to learn, to be educated, to have access to reading, writing, and arithmetic and we don’t want them indoctrinated. It must stop and I am asking for everyone in this County [Indian River] to band together and get these perverts [referring to School Board Members Jones, Barenborg, and Barefoot]. That’s my message.”
A clip of Amanchukwu speaking at public input from the School District’s live video would later be posted to the LibsofTikTok X (formerly Twitter) Account. At the time of publishing this article, the post with the video has over 10.1 Million Views on X.
Indian River News has since released its own copy of the video, with Amanchukwu’s remarks outside after being removed from the building. The video can be viewed below:
After Public Comment: The Motion by Posca to Remove the Books in Question
After public input concluded, Posca made the motion to remove the books in question with a 2nd from Barenborg. When discussing Posca’s motion, Moore and Barefoot wanted a review of the books before they were permanently removed despite the language of house bill 1069 which explains the books have to be removed if they can’t be read without a content warning or are stopped at public school board meeting.
Barenborg thought some of the books in question had been previously removed or ‘aged out’ of lower grade level schools that were found at the time to only be appropriate for older students.
Barenborg refuted the claim by some citizens that the Board had put the obscene books on the shelves in the School District when she claims that wasn’t the case unless the books were purchased in the last 3-4 years during Barenborg’s tenure as a School Board Member.
The books being challenged at the August 2023 School Board Meeting were previously flagged by Moms for Liberty – Indian River County, FL for review and had been put back on the shelves in February 2022. Teri Barenborg steered the controversial process as Board chairman. She voted for these books to be returned to school libraries. Jones and Brian Barefoot had also voted in favor of putting those exact pornographic books back onto bookshelves.
In 2022, when citizens originally challenged these same books, as chairman, Barenborg was advised by Board attorney, Molly Shaddock, to stop citizens from speaking because the board may run into potential FCC violations.
Barenborg pointed out that some of the books had been in Indian River Schools since the 1980s. She said there was no way the Board could know of every book that is in every classroom and every library in the District, explaining why the Board needed to rely on the committee to utilize the laws then (before changes in 2023). School Board member, Jackie Rosario (District 2 – Vero Beach), said utilizing a committee is unnecessary due to the new laws enacted through House Bill 1069, which allows for the removal of an obscene book if it has to be given a content warning.
Rosario continued that everything the School Board heard at the meeting was not age-appropriate, contained explicit sexual content, and furthermore, the content warning Jones gave should be enough of an indicator to have the books removed. Clarifying her remarks, Rosario stated that parents can still go through the book committee review process.
In response to all statements during discussion on both his motion and Barenborg’s amendment, Posca said that the thought of sending the books back to a committee after the Board has already done so is a bad idea. He said it is very clear that the books do not belong in school libraries, finding the board was in a constant state of violating the law the entire time. Posca found it “highly concerning” that three board members (Jones, Barenborg, and Barefoot) voted previously to not remove those books. He quoted what Jones said earlier that the board would vote to remove the books. He continued saying the board has to do its job, follow the law, and remove the books in question from that night’s meeting.
When the amendment was unanimously passed 5-0, the board immediately took their vote on the original motion, passing it 5-0 as well. Notably, when discussing the obscene books after public input, School Board Member Brian Barefoot could be found using his cell phone while on Zoom, raising questions of whether or not Barefoot was paying attention at all to the discussion going on at the meeting.
The fight to remove books with pornographic content from Indian River County started with Moms for Liberty Chapters across the United States finding reading materials in their local school systems that are grossly obscene and graphic. Some of the books found in other school districts are worse than any found in Indian River County Schools. When one Moms for Liberty chapter started finding obscene graphic books, it prompted other chapters to do the same.
Despite Moms for Liberty – Indian River, Florida’s best efforts, some in the Indian River County Community have been opposed to the fight to remove the books with pornographic obscene content.
Former Indian River County School Board Candidate and ideological liberal Cindy Gibbs (District 2 – Sebastian) was critical of Moms for Liberty – Indian River County, Florida’s efforts to remove books with obscene pornographic content when she spoke at public input. Feeling appalled by their efforts, she expressed her doubt that teachers would stand in front of classrooms and read obscene books to their students.
List of Books Removed on August 28th, 2023
The following is a list of all the books that were removed at the August 28th, 2023 SDIRC General Business Meeting:
- America: A Novel by ER Frank (was in Sebastian River High School and Vero Beach High School)
- The Handmaid Tale by Margaret Atwood (currently in Sebastian River High School) (originally challenged January 1st, 2022)
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (was in Sebastian River High School, Freshman Learning Center, Vero Beach High School and Storm Grove Middle School)
- Drama by Raina Telemeier (was in Sebastian River Middle School, Vero Beach Elementary, Storm Grove Middle School, Oslo Middle School, Pelican Island Elementary, Indian River Academy, Beachland Elementary) (originally challenged November 4th, 2022)
- Dime by ER Frank (was in Sebastian River High School) (originally challenged January 4th, 2022)
- Fade by Lisa McMann (was in Storm Grove Middle School and Vero Beach High School) (originally challenged December 30th, 2021)
- The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas (Storm Grove Middle School)
- Fallout by Ellen Hopkins (was in Storm Grove Middle School)
- Collateral by Ellen Hopkins (was in Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School)
- Glass by Ellen Hopkins (was in Storm Grove Middle School and Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School)
- A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (was in Storm Grove Middle School)
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (was in Sebastian River High School) (originally challenged November 3rd, 2021)
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer (was in Sebastian River High School) (originally challenged November 4th, 2021)
- Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jessie Andrews (was in Sebastian River High School) (originally challenged October 29th, 2021)
- Tilt by Ellen Hopkins (was in Sebastian River High School)
- Sold by Patricia McCormick (was in Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School; previously removed from Sebastian River High School before August 28th, 2023) (originally challenged January 1st, 2022)
- Crank by Ellen Hopkins (was in Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School) (originally challenged November 1st, 2021)
- Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (was in Vero Beach High School, Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School, Sebastian River High School)
- Looking for Alaska by John Green (was in Vero Beach High School and Sebastian River High School) (originally challenged October 29, 2021)
- Life is Funny by ER Frank (was in Vero Beach High School, Sebastian River High School, Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School)
- The Duff by Kody Keplinger (was in Storm Grove Middle School)
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas (was Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School)
- Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (was Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School) (originally challenged in November 1, 2021)
- Grown by Tiffany Jackson (was in Vero Beach High School, Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School (E-Book and Hard Copy Book)
- Unravel Me by Taherreh Mafi (was in Storm Grove Middle School, Sebastian River High School, and Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School)
- Tricks by Ellen Hopkins (was in Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School) (originally challenged November 1, 2021)
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (was in Vero Beach High School and Gifford Middle School) (originally challenged November 4th, 2021)
- Kingdom of Ash by Sarah Maas (was in Oslo Middle School and Storm Grove Middle School)
- The Tower of Dawn Sarah Maas (was in Storm Grove Middle School and Oslo Middle School)
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (was in Storm Grove Middle School and Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School) (was originally challenged November 4th, 2021)
This list will be updated if more information becomes available
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