In the wake of heated controversy surrounding a host of sexually-charge books which students have access to in Mat-Su school libraries, the Mat-Su School Board voted on May 24 to establish a new Library Citizens Advisory Committee.
School Board Members Kathy McCollum and Kendal Kruse asked their fellow board members to establish the new committee, which was approved on a 6-1 vote.
According to school board policy, one of the main roles of the new library committee will be to “enable both citizens and educators to better understand the attitudes and opinions held in the school and community.” The committee will also examine library books to ensure schools are not disseminating sexually explicit material to minors in violation of Alaska statute.
To achieve this end, each of the seven school board members will recommend a citizen from their district to serve on the library committee. Additional members may be added by the school superintendent from a separate pool, which could include school employees, librarians and others.
The May 24 meeting included an organized crowd of public union Mat-Su educators and librarians wearing red NEA-Alaska shirts. As a whole the union members expressed opposition to removing controversial books and claimed such efforts were akin to censorship. Most of their comments were in favor of keeping the sexualized books.
Controversy erupted earlier this year, however, with the revelation that scores of these books were circulating through school libraries. The list of all controversial titles, which are currently being challenged by parents, includes fiction and nonfiction books containing detailed descriptions of masturbation, anal and oral sex, sex toys, pole dancing, sex parties, dominatrix, foul language, descriptions of graphic and violent rape, gay teen sex encounters, gender transitioning characters and more.
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These books largely appear in various middle and high schools throughout the Mat-Su, with the most challenged titles coming from Valley Pathways, Career and Technical High, Wasilla High, Mat-Su Central, Burchell High, Palmer High, Su-Valley Jr./Sr. High and Glacier View.
School Board President Tom Bergey said he believes the new library committee will be up and running by the start of the coming school year, but noted there are still a lot of details to iron out.
Responsibilities of the library committee will be defined by the school district superintendent and may change over time. Advice or recommendations by the committee will be channeled through the superintendent directly to the school board.
— Click here to contact members of the Mat-Su School Board.
— Click here to contact School District Superintendent Randy Trani.