On Sept. 14, the Mat-Su School District’s newly-formed Library Citizens’ Advisory Committee will meet to discuss whether several books circulating through school libraries are in violation of Alaska law, which prohibits the dissemination of pornographic or indecent material to minors.
The 11- member board consists of seven community members and four school district employees. Last month, the group held its first meeting to organize and go over ground rules.
Formed earlier this year by the school board, the library committees main task is to review books that have been challenged by parents and others in the community. After carefully reading and discussing the books, the board is tasked with making a recommendation to the school board as to whether the titles should be removed or retained in school libraries.
The library committee’s job is to suspend partisan or political ideology, and judge the books solely on whether they violate Alaska law with regard to being pornographic and indecent.
According to Alaska law, it is a class C felony to distribute indecent material to minors. Violation of this law can result in up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Unlike in some other states, there are no exceptions for school librarians or teachers who might disseminate indecent library books to children.
So far, there are 56 challenged books for the library committee members to review. For the Sept. 14 meeting they will discuss three books, “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier, “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold, and “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris. They may also review “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison.
“Drama” is a graphic novel that highlights gay sexuality among teenagers, but without explicit sexual scenes. “The Lovely Bones,” includes highly graphic and detailed scenes of teen rape. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” is a teen sex guide that includes graphic illustrations of sexual intercourse and masturbation, while instructing teens about abortion options and contraceptive methods that cause early abortions. “The Bluest Eye,” depicts graphic sex scenes, masturbation and child rape.
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While some challenged books may include controversial ideas, the library committee’s job is to suspend partisan or political ideology, and judge the books solely on whether they violate Alaska law with regard to being pornographic and indecent.
The committee is also expected to read each book in its entirety and to discuss them as a whole.
The library committee meets on the second Thursday of each month, throughout the school year. The Sept. 14 meeting will be at the Mat-Su School District’s administration building (501 North Gulkana Street) in Palmer, from 5-7 p.m. Members of the public can attend, but there will be no open testimony during the meeting.