Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
School News

Book ban requests could cost Nazareth Area School District over $100,000

Nazareth Jennifer Simon.jpg
Nazareth School District Zoom recording
Nazareth School District
Moms for Liberty Northampton chapter President Jennifer Simon pushing for the district to adopt policies that would restrict classroom materials and library books in November 2022.

  • Nazareth Area School District could soon vote to ban a library book
  • It has received at least four written requests to restrict school library books from a Moms for Liberty group
  • School officials say reviewing those four books will cost $16,000

NAZARETH, Pa. - The Nazareth Area School District may have to spend more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds to review 23 books if Northampton County Moms for Liberty members and those connected with the group move ahead with requests to get all of those books banned.

The school board could also vote on whether to ban at least one book at its next meeting on Oct. 24. Local Moms for Liberty President Jennifer Simon has filed paperwork to remove the first book "Push" by Sapphire. The novel, which was made into the 2009 Academy-Award-winning movie Precious, is about an abused, pregnant Black teenager who finds hope after meeting a teacher who helps her to learn to read.

Simon is currently seeking to have at least four books removed from the shelves of the Nazareth district libraries. The three other books include "Boy Toy" by Barry Lyga, "Sold" by Patricia McCormick and "Crank" by Ellen Hopkins. "Boy Toy" is about a minor who is seduced by a teacher. "Sold" is about a young Nepali girl sold into sexual slavery. "Crank" is based on the author’s experience with her daughter’s drug addiction.

The Education Committee, made up of two members of the administration, a building principal, staff and teachers reached a recommendation, School Board Director Adam McGlynn said at a recent committee of the whole meeting. But the board voted to refer the matter to the regular school board meeting on Oct. 24. Board members did not reveal the Education Committee’s decision.

Reviewing "Push," McGlynn said, set the district back $2,000. Teachers must be paid per diem rates to do this work outside of their normal duties. To review all four books and render a decision will cost the district $16,000. The books are part of a list of 23 books submitted to the administration in March by former Moms-for-Liberty-endorsed school board candidate Thomas McElroy. McElroy lost in the May primary.

Speaking at a meeting earlier this month, McElroy's daughter and recent district graduate, Charlotte, urged board members to restrict students’ access to the books Moms for Liberty was calling into question, like "Push."

“I just hope you take in not only your own personal opinion but your view as a parent,” she said. “Like would I want my child to read that and I know I'm not a parent, but I could just say like, I don't think I would want a younger kid to read that and go through that and experience it.”

The cost to review all 23 books would be over $100,000, McGlynn said.

“Aside from the fact, there's also a significant opportunity cost in what our administrators and faculty would be doing with their time instead of doing this."
Nazareth Area School Board Director Adam McGlynn

A request for comment to Simon did not receive an immediate response.

“Aside from the fact, there's also a significant opportunity cost in what our administrators and faculty would be doing with their time instead of doing this,” he said. “So just so everyone's aware of the process and how it's been working in regards to the administrative regulations.”

At next week’s regular school board meeting, the board can do one of several things, including read the book themselves, approve the education committee’s decision, change that decision or remove the book from district shelves. If that motion fails, members can vote on a different proposal or table the issue.

Nazareth is not alone in grappling with requests for book bans — Florida-based Moms for Liberty chapters across the country have been actively working to remove books from school libraries in recent years.

PEN America, a nonprofit group promoting free expression, said most books being targeted for bans are about race or racism, or featuring characters of color, as well as books with LGBTQ+ characters. It recorded 3,362 instances of books banned nationwide in the 2022-23 school year, an increase of 33 percent from the previous school year. Its data shows there were 1,406 book ban incidents in Florida, followed by 625 bans in Texas, 333 bans in Missouri, 281 bans in Utah, and 186 bans in Pennsylvania.