Mat-Su School District’s removal of books from school libraries prompts federal lawsuit

People sit at tables during a meeting.
Members of the Mat-Su citizens library advisory committee at a meeting on Aug. 10, 2023 (Screenshot of Radio Free Palmer YouTube)

A lawsuit filed Friday in federal court accuses the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District of violating six students’ constitutional rights by removing books from school library shelves last spring.

The district removed the 56 books in April at the direction of the Mat-Su School Board, which had received some complaints. Then, this fall, the board appointed a Library Citizens Advisory Committee to review the books. The committee has reviewed 12 books so far, eight of which they recommended should only be kept in high school libraries but removed from middle and elementary schools.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Friday are represented by the ACLU of Alaska and the Northern Justice Project.

Scott Adams and his wife Dawn joined the lawsuit on behalf of their daughter, who is in middle school.

It’s understandable that some parents might think certain books are inappropriate for their child, Adams said.

“But that’s their right,” he said. “You know, if your kid comes home with that book, and you don’t think it’s appropriate, take it back to the library. Don’t make that decision for me. Let me make that decision.”

In a written statement announcing the lawsuit, the plaintiffs’ lawyers noted many of the protagonists in the challenged books are people of color or LGBTQ+ characters.

The freedom to explore different ideas in publicly available books is a fundamental constitutional right, said Savannah Fletcher, a lawyer for the Northern Justice Project. 

“And it’s a dangerous precedent we set when just one person complaining about a book has the power to remove access to it to every single family, every single student,” Fletcher said. “That’s the big motivating push behind this lawsuit, is to protect our constitutional rights.”

Mat-Su School District spokesperson Jillian Morrissey said Monday the district has not been served with the lawsuit. She declined to comment.

Fletcher said the plaintiffs will ask the court for a preliminary injunction to get the books back on shelves as soon as possible.

The district has until the start of 2024 to respond.

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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