NewsLafayette Parish


Residents concerned Library board change could suppress knowledge

Posted at 11:24 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 09:02:41-05

Several Lafayette community members are outraged by decisions made by the Lafayette public library Monday evening.

They are speaking out in disappointment at the Lafayette library board meeting for what they believe to be an effort to restrict knowledge.

Their biggest concern was having the board structure changed to what they say is an attempt to suppress knowledge in the community.

“The fact that they’ve switched it from having two librarians to one board member to now two Board members and one librarian. That’s going to guarantee that any book that comes up for reconsideration. It’s going to be banned, it’s going to be taken away from the library,” Resident Lynette Nejia said.

“They don’t want their children to have access to that they specifically have sought out books that say being gay is wrong. They have specifically canceled a program aimed at teaching the history of black voting rights,” resident Jean Menard said.

Menard believes library board President Robert Judge is trying to base this on community morals—but says he has another agenda

“It’s up to parents to decide what’s appropriate and not appropriate for them to read,” Menard said

“We demand that this policy be changed back the way it was. Librarians are professionals. He does not represent this community. He does not represent my community and he certainly doesn’t represent me.” Nejia said.

On Wednesday, Broad President Robert Judge released a statement on the meeting and the disruptions that occurred that evening.

"In order for a democracy to work, the people and their representatives must be able to peaceably assemble to civilly discuss the issues at hand."

"And this is especially true when there is a meeting of a governmental body – from the U.S. Congress down to the smallest boards of the smallest village. People who disrupt the civil debate in Congress are asked to leave, and if they refuse the presiding Congressperson has the Congressional police arrest the offender and remove them. The taxpayers have a right to expect that their elected officials and the people they appoint to the necessary boards will be able to do their job. And the public has a right to expect that their opinions will have an opportunity to be heard at public hearings. They have a right to expect that the presiding officer at a public meeting will have disrupters removed. The Federal and state courts have consistently held that disrupters do not have a right to hijack a public meeting or to prevent civil debate."

"Mr. Judge was the presiding officer at the Library Board Meeting on February 21, and as such had the responsibility to maintain order so that the business of the community could take place. There was a full agenda and many citizens who wanted to speak, and we desired everyone who wanted to speak to be given a fair opportunity to be heard. And as we now know, the meeting lasted more than four hours."

"The disrupter in question, while in the audience, started shouting and disrupting the meeting so that those who wanted to speak could not be heard. He was preventing the free speech rights of these people, and he was also disrupting everyone’s right of free assembly – rights that are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights as well as many state and local laws."

"The sheriff’s officer politely asked him at least three times to stop disrupting the meeting; he refused.

"Mr. Judge asked a sheriff’s deputy to remove the man, and the disrupter told the officer that he would not leave peaceably. Further, he told the officer that the only way he would leave is if the officer put handcuffs on him. The disrupter even put out his hands to the officer as if he wanted to be handcuffed and expected to be handcuffed. The deputy called his supervisor and after consultation, and the individual continued disrupting the meeting, he was handcuffed and removed from the meeting."

"After the meeting, Mr. Judge was asked by the officer to give a statement - which he did."

"The people of this community have a right to expect that public meetings will be able to be held on their behalf, in a civil manner. The presiders of these meetings have a duty to maintain order in these meetings so that the people’s work can be done, the people can be heard, and civil discourse can occur."

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