VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Officials with Virginia Beach City Public Schools are raising the alarm over a series of "threatening" emails that have been sent to several staff members regarding obscene materials.
Many of these emails accuse teachers, librarians and assistants of breaking the law by providing access to books, that some consider obscene material. School board member Jessica Owens said not only is this not true, but it is an attempt to intimidate their staff.
"They say staff members by virtue of being at the school buildings are in violation of federal laws, and by perpetuating that they are creating an atmosphere of intimidation," said Owens.
13News Now acquired several of the emails. In one, the writer tells staff members to pass along the message so that they can "avoid retribution."
Owens said Virginia Beach City Public Schools are not breaking any laws, and that these contested books like "Lawn Boy" and "The Bluest Eye" are allowed in their schools. She said the emails are probably a result of a dismissed Virginia court case that attempted to stop bookstores from selling "obscene" books to children.
"They are not happy with the outcome of that case and do not understand the context of the First Amendment," said Owens.
A spokesperson for Virginia Beach City Public Schools released a statement about the emails:
We are aware that emails that have been perceived as threatening in nature were sent to multiple staff members regarding books in our schools. It is unconscionable that any member of our community would allude to “retribution” in an attempt to intimidate members of VBCPS staff. The safety and well-being of our staff will always be a priority, and this matter has been referred to legal counsel for consideration of actions by the School Division.
If parents have concerns regarding books available in our schools, we have clearly-defined policies in place which articulate parent rights to review and challenge these materials, and we encourage them to follow those processes. Parents with questions about this should reach out to their school’s principal.
Owens said if parents or guardians have concerns about school books, then there are existing procedures in place to guide them on how to challenge school materials.
She said if any Virginia Beach teachers feel like they are being targeted by these emails, then they are encouraged to reach out to their school supervisor immediately.