Mat-Su school board approves policy changes for sex-ed, pronoun usage

A man at a podium in front of a school board
Gage Saxton testifies to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School Board on board policies. (Screenshot)

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District School Board on Wednesday passed a pair of board policies aimed at transgender students and sex education by a 6-1 vote without much discussion among board members. 

The policies require written parental permission before students can change their name or pronouns at school, require parents to opt their students into sex-ed classes and require school board approval of sex-ed curriculum.

The policies are similar to what was contained in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s House Bill 105, called the parental rights in education bill. Melissa Wilkins has three children in the district and said she supports the policy revisions. 

“We need to divorce health care from education so children have the best chance at economic equity,” Wilkins said. “To do that they need an education, not an ideology being pushed upon them.”

Most people who spoke to the school board, however, were against the parent permission policy which was introduced two weeks ago, but not discussed at all by the board.

Gage Saxton has two students in the district, and called out board members who supported the policies. 

“We do not throw away established principles just because a small group of people call for the denial of other people’s rights when your job is to protect the rights and well-being for all those you serve,” Saxton said. 

Ted Swanson was the lone board member to cast a “no” vote. 

“I didn’t take an oath to defend the constitution of the United States of America, and serve in the military for five years to sit on a board, a local governing board, to limit the First Amendment rights, the Bill of Rights, the constitutional rights, of any individual,” Swanson said. 

The Mat-Su was the first district to ban trans students using bathrooms and playing on sports teams that match their gender identity. It remains the only district in the state with such bans, but the Alaska Board of Education and Early Development recently approved a public comment period for a ban on trans athletes competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

At Wednesday’s meeting the Mat-Su board also passed policies prohibiting activism from teachers and limiting school counselors to discussing academic matters only with students, except in the case of child abuse. 

The next Mat-Su school board meeting is June 21, where the board will vote on a policy change that removes language describing libraries as safe, equitable and inclusive spaces. 
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that Gage Saxton does not have children, but he has two in the Mat-Su School District.

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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