The following statement was issued by the Mat-Su School Board on May 6 to address controversy and misunderstanding surrounding its decision to remove five books from a “recommended” reading list in a high school English elective class.
The school board convenes again tonight (May 6) and is slated to address this matter during its public meeting.
Prior to April 22, 2020 there existed no adopted High School English Electives course curriculum. A proposed curriculum for select English Electives came before the Board for approval on April 22, 2020. The proposed curriculum included a “recommended” reading list of American Literature. Prior to April 22, 2020, teachers achieved the course objectives through materials of their choosing.
District Administration informed the Board that 5 books for inclusion in the recommended reading list were “controversial” and provided a list of the books to the Board and the public identifying reasons for the “controversial” status, including the following:
- “I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings” – sexually explicit material, anti-white messaging.
- “Catch-22” – racial slurs, scenes of violence against women.
- “The Invisible Man” – language, rape and incest.
- “The Things They Carried” – profanity and sexual references.
- The Great Gatsby” – language and sexual references.
On April 22nd some School Board members expressed concern with some of the content identified on the School Administration’s list of controversial books. The School Board then moved to not include these 5 books on the recommended reading list.
Nonetheless, in accordance with Board policy and Administrative Regulation 6144, controversial issues may continue to be discussed and addressed in the classroom under certain conditions. It is the Superintendent or designee (usually the school principal), who has “the authority to judge whether the [those] conditions are being met.” This regulation provides the Superintendent or designee authority to approve books not listed on a recommended reading list.
Board action on April 22nd did not alter this authority. The School Board did not ban the books, did not preclude their use by teachers, and did not remove the books from school libraries.
Due to COVID-19 health mandates school board meetings are being held telephonically. The meeting will be live-streamed here at 6 p.m. on May 6. Those wishing to provide testimony must sign up no later than 3 p.m. on May 6 by contacting Stacy Escobedo at Stacy.Escobedo@matsuk12.us or 907-746-9272.