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Nicholas Sparks wrote The Notebook. But his personal life is marred with controversy.

Nicholas Sparks is the millionaire romance writer behind some of Hollywood’s most well-known love stories.

The 53-year-old, North Carolina resident has penned a grand total of 22 books, with 11 of those spawning global cinematic adaptations.

A Walk to Remember, Dear John, The Notebook, The Lucky One and Safe Haven are just some of his more well-known films, many of which require no introduction.

It seems his fairy tale allure, however, ends at the closing credits.

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Since 2014, Sparks has found himself the subject of a law suit which accuses him of anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic behaviour by the former headmaster and CEO of the The Epiphany School of Global Studies, Saul Benjamin, which the author and his then-wife Cathy Sparks co-founded in 2006.

According to Entertainment Weekly the couple paid “close to $10 million of their own money” to fund the school, which describes itself as a “Judeo-Christian” based high school, dedicated to teaching students to be “lifelong learners, critical thinker, courageous leaders and committed believers”.

Five years ago Benjamin accused the school’s Board of Trustees, with particular mention of Sparks, of unapologetically marginalising, bullying and harassing members of the School community if their “religious views and/or identities did not conform to their religiously driven, bigoted preconceptions,” reported The Daily Beast.

In a previous article dating back to 2014, Benjamin states the Trustees acted with a “veritable cauldron of bigotry toward individuals who are not traditionally Christian, and especially who are non-white” and said Sparks allegedly told him that “black students are too poor and can’t do the academic work.”

Although Benjamin was fired from his position in 2013, he claims Sparks and two other Trustee members forced him to resign and reduced him and his wife to tears, before Sparks falsely told the community Benjamin was terminated due to mental illness. In light of this the former headmaster’s suit includes claims of defamation, with Benjamin seeking monetary damages for “mental anguish and emotional distress,” loss of personal and professional reputation and “loss of past and future income”.

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While this suit has been in action since 2014, most recently The Daily Beast have obtained and published a series of emails between Sparks and Benjamin which show Sparks discrediting Benjamin’s attempt at establishing a LGBTQ+ club for the students.

“About the non-discrimination policy you keep bringing up: please remember that sexual orientation was NOT in there originally, and that the only reason it was added was that YOU insisted it be specifically be added,” wrote Sparks.

“Frankly, no one but you wanted it in there… Please stop implying it was something the BOT [Board Of Trustees] wanted to do, it’s the law. And, I will be checking on how that relates to faith-based schools. If possible, we might be able to change it back to what it was before.

“Also, remember, we’ve had gay students before, many of them. Tom handled it quietly and wonderfully, and the students considered themselves fortunate. I expect you to do the same.”

LA Times writer and the woman behind Bachelor Nation, Amy Kaufman has also shared her thoughts on Twitter.

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“FWIW [For what it’s worth], I spoke to him in 2010 and it remains one of my least favourite interviews ever,” she wrote.

Kaufman interviewed Sparks ahead of the Hollywood premier of Dear John which starred Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, and while she doesn’t outwardly criticise the author, there are quotes which don’t paint him in the most positive light.

“There’s a really big difference between having one novel made into a film and having seven. Alice Sebold had ‘The Lovely Bones.’ Is her life changed now?” he told Kaufman in a statement that in hindsight, just feels unnecessary.

“But when you start getting over six, seven, we’re moving into territory where not a lot of people go.”

Kaufman’s three-tweet thread has since garnered  hundreds of responses and reactions, with one former gay-identifying student sharing their experience of attending The Epiphany School in the comments.

“As a queer kid at this school fortunate is the last word me or any of my friends would have used,” wrote Twitter user @popculturetrash, continuing their tweets in a separate post.

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“I went to the crazy Nick Sparks school and teachers would measure our cleavage before we could enter school,” they continued.

“I went to the Nick Sparks school and one of my friends was told to just wait til college to come out of the closet.

“Y’all this lie is wild… not a single gay student at Epiphany before or after Saul was treated with respect until I graduated in 2015.”

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Another former student, Twitter user @kelseypontiff has also spoken about her experience.

“Hey remember when me and some other kids tried to start a GSA [gay–straight alliance] club at our christian private school run by Nicholas Sparks and all the rich parents on the board sued our headmaster for supporting the gays and then I got kicked out of school for starting it,” she wrote.

“To be fair, it was mostly pressure from parents on the board to stop the club or they would stop funding the school but Nicholas Sparks still had a responsibility to value the inclusivity and safety of LGBT students over the board members’ money, which he failed to do.”

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Since the controversy, Sparks has withheld comment to The Daily Beast, choosing instead to issue a general statement on his Instagram and Twitter pages, denying the claims.

“The article appearing in today’s The Daily Beast is not news, and repeats false accusations and claims made against Epiphany and me, and largely ignores the overwhelming evidence we have submitted to the Court,” he wrote.

“While there will be a new trial on a few remaining issues, I am confident that a jury will evaluate these claims fairly and decide those claims in our favour as well.

“Ephiphany is and remains a place where students and the faculty of any race, belief, religion, background or orientation should feel welcome. My commitment to these values, as well as Ephiphany’s commitment to these values, have been and remain constant.”

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