More than $30K of taxpayers' money, 220 hours spent on single Spring Branch ISD book ban, docs show

Shannon Ryan Image
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
More than $30K spent on single Spring Branch ISD book ban, docs show
Spring Branch ISD is expediting its book-banning process. Meanwhile, documents show that a ban costs more than $30,000 and uses 220 staff hours.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Spring Branch ISD is expediting its book-banning process.

Monday night, the board voted to cut the first two layers of its book reconsideration process - skipping to the third and final layer. This means teacher, administrator, and parent feedback will be almost entirely subverted. Instead, book review decisions will be left to the school board's discretion.

The decision came as a blow to Spring Branch parents and activists, like Nathalie Herpin, who have been fighting the ban.

"I think we start to see that a lot of these concerns target marginalized communities," Herpin said.

She helps run the Families 4 Every Child political action committee, which opposes what the website refers to as "fringe" educational issues, like book bans.

Herpin filed a records request with the district asking how much money and time was spent reviewing "The Black Friend, On Being a Better White Person."

The book, penned by Frederick Joseph, was banned by the school board in January 2023.

SEE ALSO: 'It's heartbreaking': Spring Branch ISD bans book despite author saying he writes for humanity

ABC13 verified the data Herpin received with the district. Then, Jeffrey Davidson, a partner with Capstone Forensic Group, combed through the numbers.

Davidson found that the district spent $30,119 and 226 staff hours reviewing the book. The hours were split between 16 district employees.

"That time and that money, I think, could be better spent working on literacy issues for the school district," Jeanette Sewell, who serves as database and metadata coordinator for Rice University's Fondren Library, said.

More than 40 books have been submitted for reconsideration this school year.

Sources told ABC13 the first two layers of the ban were eliminated Monday because parents and activists opposed to book bans were filing frivolous book reconsideration requests in an effort to jam up the system and delay bans.

"You encourage the system to allow people to challenge more books and to seek to remove more books. Board members have even publicly encouraged people to challenge books. Yet, you seem surprised and frustrated when not just the people you encouraged to challenge books seem to use the system," Spring Branch ISD parent Melissa Endicott said, addressing the board directly Monday evening.

ABC13 requested a list of the titles up for reconsideration along with parent complaint forms from the district.

One parent wrote they wanted "The Day the Crayon Quit" banned because "overall, the book has a negative vibe."

Another parent submitted "Magic Treehouse: Dragon of the Red Dawn" for review because of the "unrealistic nature of mythological creatures."

"The majority of people are going to agree that that's not worth challenging," Sewell laughed.

"Wonder" was reported for "celebrating differences."

"Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties" was submitted because a parent claimed they do not want their child to believe that "animals are human."

Both "The Couch Potato" and "Doughnut Kingdom" were reported for their alleged "glamourization of an unhealthy lifestyle."

"Waiting is Not Easy!" was objected to because a parent claimed talking animals could "confuse or upset a child."

They added that the animals were "badly behaved" and noted, "the elephant is terribly impatient!"

Of "Smile," a parent wrote, "Kids who have braces shouldn't be ashamed."

Another wrote of "The Ultimate Bug Rumble" that "the bracket for the competition is ridiculous and why would we pit bugs against one another."

SEE RELATED: Spring Branch ISD school board passes new streamlined process to ban books submitted for review