A New Jersey mother is suing military, police, and other officials after she says they deemed her a “threat” and “treated like a terrorist” for complaining about sexually explicit posters at a local elementary school.
“I aim to embolden more parents to assert their fundamental rights in raising their children and voicing their concerns about the public education system,” 35-year-old Angela Reading told TheBlaze Saturday.
“Ultimately, I seek accountability for those involved,” Reading also said.
Reading, represented by Thomas More Society attorneys, filed a federal civil rights violation complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey March 15. Reading is demanding a trial by jury.
Named defendants include North Hanover Township, Police Chief Robert Duff, multiple officers at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and Helen Payne. Payne, who was serving as North Hanover School District Superintendent at the time, is named in her individual capacity.
Reading was subject to “outright censorship of her speech followed by a dedicated smear campaign begun by a military officer, U.S. Army Reserve Major Christopher Schilling,” according to a press release from Reading’s attorneys.
The case stems from an incident last fall, as TheBlaze reported in February. Reading took to Facebook to express concerns about hand-drawn posters at North Hanover Township’s Upper Elementary School that contained terms like “polysexual” and “gender queer.”
The post was removed after, according to the Reading’s attorneys, “the police chief of North Hanover Township, acting in concert with military personnel from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” coerced its takedown.
According to the complaint, the defendants portrayed Reading as a “security threat” and reported her to assorted law enforcement and security agencies as a retaliatory measure designed to silence her and inspire fear.
The defendants “acted singularly and in conspiracy with one another to deprive Mrs. Reading rights, including rights protected by the United States and New Jersey constitutions, as well as other laws,” the complaint also says.
“This intention to trigger a preposterous widespread law enforcement investigation and state of alarm over Mrs. Reading’s protected speech as if it were an ‘incident’ of potential, or even actual criminality, is a violation of Mrs. Reading’s civil rights,” Thomas More attorney Christopher Ferrara said in the press release.
Reading is a New Jersey mother of two and third-year law student. Until the incident, she had served on her county’s regional board of education. She later resigned from that position.
“The civil rights lawsuit I have filed is a critical step towards seeking justice for the irreversible damage inflicted upon my personal life, professional reputation, and capacity to meaningfully contribute and serve my community,” Reading told TheBlaze.
“As this case progresses, I hope it illuminates the pervasive issue of government censorship and the retaliation against parents who strive to safeguard their children’s well-being while at school.”
TheBlaze sought comment from defendants and other involved entities in February.
Seven of the ten defendants are associated with JB MDL. Each are being sued in their individual and official capacities. They include Colonel Wes Adams, Colonel Robert Grimmett, Megan Hall, Nathaniel Lesher, Christopher Schilling, Joseph Vazquez, and Colonel Mitchell Wisniewski.
“Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was made aware of the social media exchange involving a Soldier stationed at JB MDL. The opinions expressed were posted from a personal account unaffiliated with the military and were not official statements made on behalf of the Department of Defense,” Derek VanHorn, chief of media relations at JB MDL, told TheBlaze in an emailed statement in February.
“Any information or concerns received by the installation were passed on to the local civilian law enforcement responsible for jurisdiction. As fellow members of the local community, the safety of our service members, their families, and the community we live in, is of the utmost importance and we take every concern seriously,” JB MDL’s statement concluded, adding a note with contact information for media inquiries about “the Soldier” (i.e., Maj. Christopher Schilling, U.S. Army Reserve).
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