In an effort to find out where Anchorage School Board candidates stand on some of the most controversial and critical issues facing public schools, the Watchman sent survey questions to each of the eight candidates running for two seats on the Anchorage School Board. We have updated this article to remove the responses of Cliff Murray who has suspended his campaign and thrown his support behind Mark Anthony Cox.

Our questions deal with critical race theory, curriculum choices, parental rights, sex education, transgender athletes, homeschooling and health services such as abortion referrals and contraception.

We received survey responses from four candidates (including Murray, who has since dropped out of the race). Those who failed to respond were incumbents Margo Bellamy and Kelly Lessons (both endorsed by Planned Parenthood) who are members of the school board’s leftist majority. Benjamin Baldwin and Dan Loring also failed to respond.

Running for School Board Seat A are Cox, Murray, Bellamy and Loring. Running for Seat B are Ries, Darden, Baldwin and Lessons. All registered Anchorage voters will be able to vote for one candidate for both Seat A and Seat B. Ranked choice voting is not part of the Anchorage Municipal elections.

Below are the answers we received.

QUESTION: Politically charged curriculum such as critical race theory is a major controversy in school districts around the nation, including here in Alaska. How would you facilitate robust parental involvement in the development of ASD curriculum?

Rachel Ries

RACHEL RIES: All curricula should be transparent. One such option would be posting it on a website where parents can access it anytime and keep up with lessons all year. This would include a comprehensive list of all textbooks, handouts and supplemental resources used in any class. Additionally, teachers should not be forced to teach prepackaged education plans. Teachers should be empowered to be professional educators who are respected and encouraged to engage with parents. It’s not just a curriculum issue. There is a culture issue at hand in ASD.

MARK ANTHONY COX: Alaska ranks last in the nation for educational proficiency in K-12, so radical curriculum like CRT should be eliminated as it is no benefit to our students nor community.

DUSTIN DARDEN: Jesus Christ is Lord.

QUESTION: The Anchorage School district has come under fire for allowing highly explicit sexual books in school libraries. What needs to be done to address this problem going forward?

RACHEL RIES: First, there needs to be an initial comprehensive audit of all library materials currently on hand.  Any pornographic or explicit materials needs to be removed. Then all library materials ordered need to be signed off as reviewed by the librarian who is responsible for a given library space. The same with textbooks at the ASD warehouse. Without accountability it is too easy to let items like the book found earlier this year to make its way into school libraries. I support free speech, but pornography has no place in our schools. That is a parent’s decision when or if their child should have access to those types of materials before they are an adult. My answer would be the same if that book had shown a heterosexual couple. Pornography is pornography regardless of sexual preference.

Mark Anthony Cox

MARK ANTHONY COX: My suggestion moving forward would be to create a parent-led committee that audits the entire library catalog and reports it’s’ findings publicly. We must turn every stone for our children’s sakes.


QUESTION: Do you support a parent’s right to withdraw their child from any activity or class which the parent believes to be harmful? 


MARK ANTHONY COX: Yes, I am an advocate for parent’s rights. Parents operate in the best interest of their children.

DUSTIN DARDEN: Yes, save the children.

QUESTION: Would you support the use of school district resources to refer students for abortion and/or to distribute contraception to students? 

RACHEL RIES: No on abortion. There is room for a conversation with the parents at the high schools for contraception with parent consent and total program transparency.  This would need to be a need expressed by the community, not a program foisted on the community.

MARK ANTHONY COX: No. Time spent in school is for educating children to be proficient in foundational studies that will better prepare them for continuing education.

Cliff Murray

DUSTIN DARDEN: Crush the alter of human sacrifice.

QUESTION: Do you support the Anchorage School District current policy of allowing males to compete on female sports teams (and vice versa) if they personally identify as a member of the opposite sex?




QUESTION: Do you support the Anchorage School District’s policy of allowing male students who identify as female (and vice versa) to use the opposite sex’s bathrooms and locker rooms?



Dustin Darden


QUESTION: Since Covid hit, Alaska has seen a massive shift towards homeschooling. Do you see this as a positive development, and would you support expanding homeschool options for ASD students? 

RACHEL RIES: Yes. Parents have the inherent right to educate their children as they see fit. I fully support school choice. I would recommend a total program review to develop a robust school choice program where per-student spending is tied directly to each child enrolled in ASD.

MARK ANTHONY COX: I do see it as positive because it is no surprise that homeschooling students outperform our public-school students. Parents know their children best, and for parents who homeschool I would advocate their monetary support from the school board as well. Further expanding what works, like homeschooling, is essential for us moving forward.


QUESTION: Sex education has long-been a source of controversy in schools. Do you support teaching sex education to students? Please explain your position. 

RACHEL RIES: This would depend on how the program was managed. There is a way to provide responsible sex education to high schoolers, with parent consent and a fully transparent program. Parents would need to be able to opt out with no grade retribution on the student if they are opted out. I do not support it in lower grades in any form. Childhood is a time of innocence. Every measure should be taken to treat that as sacred.

MARK ANTHONY COX: No, I do not. I do not see us as a district as the ones to talk about sex with parents’ students, and based on our proficiency scores we simply cannot afford to expand our topics of discussion outside of reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies, sciences and the arts. We must focus on educating our students so that their diploma can be an assurance that they will succeed. Sex education proficiency is not an indicator of success.



— Click here for information on how to vote in the upcoming April 5 election.

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Anchorage School Board candidates’ share views on CRT, parental rights, sex-ed, LGBT issues, homeschool & more

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • david Boyle says:

    All candidates: Re sex education, parents should have OPT-IN for their child. The current opt-out is fraught with problems

    • Rachel Ries says:

      David – this is a very valuable point and one we have taken to heart here at Ries For Alaska. I am in favor of the switch to an “opt-in” option as a viable alternative for parental consent. It is an elegant solution to our current issues with the “opt-out” format. Please reach out to the campaign to discuss the specifics.

  • Ed says:

    The alack of responses from some candidates speaks volumes for where they stand. Hope the voters of Anchorage hear their message loud and clear.

    • Sandra Oden says:

      From experiencing being a child and being a parent, I am qualified to answer the question regarding sex education: The ASD should teach the biology of mankind (as opposed to “human biology” for those who believe in a difference) at a time to coincide with puberty. This will give the child the information needed and alleviate the judgment of the parent. I’m extremely open-minded and blushed at the thought of mentioning anything sexual to my kids!

  • Me says:


  • Theresa says:

    Ries’ response to the first question is excellent. She lost me on contraception and sex Ed.
    Mark Anthony Cox looks like a great candidate.
    Darden still appears have a paper bag over his head. I’d be inclined to take him seriously if he answered the questions more thoroughly.
    Thank you for surveying the candidates and sharing their responses!

  • Theresa says:

    A word regarding “sex” education: basic human biology in a science class would be sufficient. However, today, “sex” often refers to anything deemed pleasurable that might be done to/with the sex organs, regardless of their God-given design and proper functions.
    I think we need to clarify what is meant by “sex” education before we say yea or nay to whether it’s appropriate in the classroom setting and at what age.

    • Brian says:

      I concur with Mark Anthony Cox. When children graduating are not proficient in the basics of education, there is no room for classes containing anything else. Sex (as in male and female) is part of anatomy and can be taught in a science class. However, the teaching of classes concerning sexual activity of any kind is inappropriate and misdirects time and resources allocated to public schools. It is of no benefit for students to be proficient in knowledge of sexual activity. This is only amplified when they have insufficient knowledge in reading, writing, math, and pertinent social studies.

  • Terry Tiree says:

    What’s with Darden?

  • Cliff Murray says:

    I am suspending my campaign for Seat A in support of Mark Anthony Cox. We need a change. Please vote for Mark…and Rachel!

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Cliff, I just checked your site to verify. I hope you stay involved and run again, we need more people like you and Mark in there.

      This is a huge seat to win, as the incumbent is the most outspoken supporter of the CRT agenda on the board. Everyone please volunteer and donate to Mark.

      • Patrick says:

        This misguided ideology of CRT being in any curriculum other than private schools and University law studies is just more conservative rhetoric and a demonstration of your insecurities of the true history of the U.S. that is an emotional embarrassment for us WASP’s. You can’t handle the truth about what really went on from the 1600’s and who suffered but built this nation under the thumb of European migrants. Get some education! Use an open mind. Verify your sources. If you haven’t actually studied CRT…you don’t know what you speak of. Maybe it should be taught! Your children could teach you the truth…if you’re open to reality.

    • Deb says:

      Are you serious?
      Your name is on the ballot and people have already started voting!!!

      Or is this a joke?

  • Michelle Campbell says:

    Yeah! Dustin Dardin.
    Read your name in League of Women Voters.
    I applaud you . Dustin, you stand out in this era of FEAR, and confusion.
    Please voters pay attention to endorsements from government groups, selecting those of choice . We need leaders that represent parents in the picture, not the government.

  • Theresa says:

    I wonder if the Watchman will publish a “how to” for rank choice voting? Not telling us who to vote for, but how to vote? …I’m inclined to write “how to vote effectively,” which points to the confusing nature of the new system! Must I fill in every slot? If I put the same name in every slot, will that invalidate my ballot? If I fill out only one slot, will that invalidate my ballot? I’d much rather know how to vote without invalidating my ballot BEFORE I get to the ballot box…or my mailbox, I guess. What lunacy.

    • Georgia says:

      Per the article ranked choice voting is not part of the Anchorage Municipal Election.

  • Georgia says:

    Per the article ranked choice voting is not part of the Anchorage Municipal Election.

  • C says:

    I recommend all to view the film “Whose Children Are They?” It helps parents know what your school goal is for your children. They want your children taught by them, raised by them, and want them to think like them. NEA has power and funds and will use it to get what they want and that is your children. Stand up and band together parents. Their coming for your children.

  • Heather Ray says:

    Any of these candidates would be a breath of fresh air compared to Kelly Lessons (who thinks our country is not inherently free) and Margo Bellamy. Both of these ladies have been an absolute embarrassment and both need to be removed immediately!!!