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Banning Books 2.0: Mat-Su Borough School District

Call to Action. Attend the next Mat-Su School Board meeting on May 24 and fight back on the attempt to ban books in the School District libraries.

At the next Mat-Su School Board meeting, we hope the School District will provide some transparency on their new policy for reviewing challenged books though a new committee. The School District on April 13, called for applications for membership on the committee. And they got over 300!

The District is now moving the goal post, saying that a lottery of the applications will be used to select the committee. People who applied report their dismay on finding that the District is putting all applicants into a lottery. Why were the applicants asked to provide anything but contact information if their names were just going to be thrown into a hat?

Will teachers and librarians be arrested for books on the shelves?

The District has list of 56 challenged books that mirror lists that are being submitted to school boards across the nation. A fact sheet provided by the district on the committee states that books will be evaluated "using Alaska Statute 11.61.128 [distribution of indecent material to minors] as the criteria.” In fact, some people reported at the last Board meeting (May 3) that they had already reported schools and librarians to law enforcement, using this statute. Let's be clear: this is an attempt to intimidate our teachers at a time when teachers across the nation are leaving the profession in drove.

The District has kicked this to the School Board for consideration at the next Board meeting on May 24.

Actions you can take.

  • Testify at the next meeting of the School Board on Wednesday, May 24, 6 PM, at the MSBSD Central Office 501 N Gulkana St, Palmer. Here are the District Guidelines on How to Testify.

  • Contact the School Board by email or board members by phone.

  • Contact the Superintendent by email or by phone, 907-746-9255.

  • Keep up to date at the Facebook Page Let Alaska Read.

It is crucial to convey that the current policy has indeed served the district well, and therefore, there is no need for a new policy. It is essential to assert that parents must have the freedom to choose what books their children read, and it should not be the decision of a small group of parents to impose their choices on the entire district.

There is an excellent fact sheet put out by the Alaska Library Association. Some of their points are:

  • There is no clarity on how the committee will review books. The new policy is unclear. Will a book be removed based on one word, phrase, or section? Will the entirety of the book be examined?

  • What happens after the initial 56 books are reviewed? A list of 56 books has been provided by the district. What happens after these 56 titles are reviewed? Will the new committee review all future challenges and if so, who may issue a challenge and what is the process for doing so? The existing policy spelled all this out clearly. The new procedures are not transparent.

  • A book’s literary or educational value cannot be determined based solely on whether it contains materials that are “indecent” per Alaska Statute 11.61.128. However, the district has listed this as the only criteria that will be considered.

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