School board OKs changes to policies on challeges to instructional material

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education on Monday approved changes to the district’s process for challenging instructional materials in a way board members said will be less burdensome for district staff.

The policy being revised outlines the process through which KPBSD staff, students, parents or guardians and Kenai Peninsula Borough residents may make complaints about instructional materials used in the district. For both required and non-required materials, district policy says the item will be reviewed by an instructional material review committee.

The revisions to that policy approved by school board members on Monday newly limit the number of instructional items that a person can challenge at any given time to one. The district’s existing policy did not limit the number of items.

Further, the revised policy increased the amount of time that must elapse between when an item is reviewed by the district and when a new challenge can be brought against the same item. Previously, the district would allow reconsideration of a previously challenged item after one year. Now, an item may be reconsidered after three years.

Board member Jason Tauriainen, who represents Nikiski, tried unsuccessfully to amend the policy such that a person could challenge three, rather than one, item going through the district’s challenge process at a time. In proposing the change, Tauriainen said limiting challenges to one at a time was too restrictive.

“I don’t believe in somebody just bringing a list that they found and throwing a bunch of challenges in, so I do think there needs to be a cap, but I think one at a time is a little too restrictive,” Tauriainen said Monday.

Board member Penny Vadla said allowing each person to challenge three items at a time could prove burdensome for KPBSD’s librarians, particularly if the district is experiencing staff shortages.

“If we have future instances where we can’t fill our libraries with people who are certified to take care of it properly, then I think three could be problematic,” Vadla said.

It was initially unclear Monday whether or not board members had the authority to amend administrative regulations, however, KPBSD Administrative Secretary Nikkol Sipes ultimately determined they do. Board members voted 8-1 against increasing the number of challenged items per person from one to three, with Tauriainen voting in support.

Board members voted 8-1 in favor of the revised policy, with board member Matt Morse voting in opposition. Tauriainen said that, while he still thinks the one-item limit is too restrictive, he overall supported the proposed revisions.

Monday’s school board meeting will be available to stream on KPBSD’s BoardDocs page.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at