Mat-Su school board will vote on policies requiring parent permission for sex ed, pronoun changes

In this still from the video stream of the May 24 meeting of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District School Board, American Civil Liberties policy director for Alaska Mike Garvey speaks to the board. (Screenshot)

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District Board is preparing to vote Wednesday on a pair of policies that would affect transgender students. 

The proposed board policies are similar to what was proposed in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s House Bill 105. The “parental rights” bill saw revisions and hours of public testimony in the state House, but faced staunch opposition in the Senate and ultimately wasn’t passed this spring.

One of the proposed Mat-Su school board policies would require parents to provide written permission before a student could change the name or pronouns they use at school. The other proposed policy draws directly from the House bill. It would require parents to receive notification two weeks ahead of “any activity, class, or program that includes content involving gender identity, human reproduction, or sexual matter is provided to a child,” and provide written consent that their child may participate. 

The policy would also require the school board to give final approval for “curriculum, literature, or materials related to sex education, human reproduction education, or human sexuality education,” and make the materials available for parental review.

If passed, parents would be required to opt-in to sex-ed classes, rather than opting-out of the curriculum. 

The policies were recommended by the three-member board policy committee, made up of school board members Jacob Butcher, Ole Larson and Kathy McCollum. None of the members of the committee responded to repeated requests for comment for this article. 

During the May 24 meeting, many people spoke out against the proposed changes. 

“These changes are an outright extreme attack on LGBTQ youth that forcibly outs and misgenders LGBTQ students, implements don’t be gay policies, and attacks sex-ed for all Alaskans,” said Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates State Director Rose O’Hara Jolley. “By passing these you are saying it’s okay to discriminate and target others within our community.” 

The state already requires school districts to notify parents ahead of sex-ed classes as part of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act, which include Bree’s Law and Erin’s Law. The two laws were enacted in 2017, and provide “age-appropriate information” on sexual abuse and sexual assault prevention as well as teen dating violence prevention programs to Alaska students. 

The Mat-Su school board was the first and only school board in the state to pass bans on transgender girls participating on sports teams and using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s policy director for Alaska, Mike Garvey, said that his organization does not see any benefit to the proposed policies.

“The fact that they’ve been introduced, says that there are people who believe these are good ideas. We don’t think they’re good ideas, we think they’ll be harmful,” Garvey said. “It is going to diminish the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, it’s going to violate their privacy, and it’s going to put transgender and gender nonconforming students at especially grave risk of harm.”

House Bill 105 was referred to the House Judiciary committee, where it remained when the legislative session ended in May. An overwhelming majority of public testimony came out against the bill. A spokesperson for Dunleavy’s office said that there was no collaboration between the governor’s office and the Mat-Su school board on the proposed board policies.

The board’s meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, at the district’s central office in Palmer. It will be live-streamed online.

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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