A New Jersey mom is suing her local police chief and high-ranking officials at a nearby Air Force Base, alleging they targeted her and portrayed her as a security threat after she spoke out about the sexually graphic material on display in an elementary school.
Angela Reading, who was once the state’s Student Teacher of the Year and is now a law student at Villanova, is represented by the Thomas More Society in her lawsuit against a total of nine people in connection with an incident that occurred last November. The mother of daughters aged 6 and 7, who was at the time vice president of the county Board of Education, attended “Math Night” at Upper Elementary School where she was stunned to see posters made by children that used sexual terms, including “polysexual,” “pansexual,” and “genderqueer.”
“Why are elementary schools promoting/allowing elementary KIDS to research sexuality and create posters?” Reading wondered on Facebook. “This is not in the state elementary standards (law) nor in the BOE-approved curriculum. It’s perverse and should be illegal to expose my kids to sexual content.”
After one of her daughters asked Reading what “polysexual” meant, Reading contacted a parent of one of the children who created the posters, a school board member, and the schools superintendent, who all dismissed her concerns.
Reading’s Facebook post caught the attention of U.S. Army Reserve Major Christopher Schilling, who was attached to the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. According to Reading’s lawsuit, Schilling emailed parents and local school staff members, and even sought to involve personnel at the base in an attempt to censor and retaliate against Reading.
Schilling sent a message “falsely alleging that Mrs. Reading’s protected speech violated the School Ethics Act and school district policy, even though her Facebook post clearly stated that she was merely expressing her own opinion on social media, which policy expressly permits,” the lawsuit states.
School Superintendent Helen Payne sent a “letter to the community” saying Reading’s actions had “resulted in both general and specific threats against the District and its personnel” despite the fact that no such “specific threats” had been made, according to the lawsuit.
Robert Duff, chief of police for North Hanover Township, allegedly pressured the Facebook group administrator to remove Reading’s post, claiming “students could die” if it remained up, the lawsuit claims. Duff allegedly later told Reading he had received emails from the Joint Base calling her an “extremist” but insisted to Reading that the emails were “classified,” which the lawsuit states is false. The chief is also accused of improperly accessing school surveillance footage to try to prove Reading’s children had not seen the posters.
Reading alleges the efforts led to her being verbally abused at a December Board of Education meeting and spiraling problems for her and her family. She resigned from her school board post and from positions in the New Jersey School Boards Association and her husband resigned as president of the North Hanover Township School Board.
“My entire life has been uprooted,” Reading told CBN News. “When all of this was taking place, I’m in law school and I had to stop going to school, not take my exams, which plummeted my GPA. I had to pull my kids from school during that time period for their safely. And now I don’t feel safe for them even going back to that school given how so many members of the community and the superintendent participated in this cancellation and betrayal of me as a security threat.”
“Mrs. Reading’s post respectfully expressed her concerns, but it did not call for any person to take any form of action or make a response,” the lawsuit states.
In addition to Schilling, Duff, and Payne, the lawsuit names other officials at the military base who Reading claims falsely told media outlets that Schilling acted alone
“The Joint Base further falsely claimed to the media that Defendant Schilling was acting alone when in fact, he had acted with the other Joint Base Actors under the respective authority of their Joint Base Superiors,” the lawsuit claims.
Reading said the incident has left her and her family pariahs in their own town.
“There are damages far outreaching that will follow me throughout my entire life,” she said. “I don’t even feel comfortable and safe going out in my community the way that they portrayed me. I’ve lost friends that don’t talk to me who actually believed the things that were being said.”