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Mat-Su school board removes romance novel 'It Ends With Us' from libraries after challenge

Feb. 22—PALMER — The Mat-Su school board on Wednesday voted to permanently remove the romance novel "It Ends With Us" from library shelves, marking the first decision in a broad review of 56 challenged books.

The board decided to ask Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District officials to make a final decision on the fate of five other challenged books, including titles by Judy Blume and Toni Morrison.

The school board voted 6-1 during a regular meeting Wednesday to permanently remove the novel by Colleen Hoover, with board member Ted Swanson voting no.

"It Ends With Us" follows the abusive relationship and marriage of Lily Bloom to husband Ryle Kincaid, including her ultimate escape.

The board members did not discuss why they voted to remove the book.

An 11-member advisory committee tasked with identifying books for removal from school district shelves ruled late last year that "It Ends With Us" violates a state law that makes it illegal for adults to distribute "indecent material" that is "harmful to minors" age 16 and under because the book contains themes of abuse and sex.

That vote was 8-0, with two members abstaining and one absent.

Whether the five additional books violate state law received close but not unanimous votes from the advisory committee.

Rather than rule on whether those titles should be permanently removed, on Wednesday evening the board instead moved as part of the vote to send them back to district administrators for a final decision. Those books are: "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison; "Forever" by Judy Blume; "Flamer" by Mike Curato; "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris; and "Breathless" by Jennifer Niven.

What that decision process will be has yet to be determined, district spokeswoman Jillian Morrissey said after the vote Wednesday.

The board also ruled Wednesday that 12 additional books examined by the committee should stay on at least some school shelves, and ordered the administration to determine the "age appropriateness of each title" and "whether to impose any restrictions." Those titles include "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini and "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood.

The book advisory committee is tasked with examining a total of 56 books, with the school board ruling on next steps after the reviews are completed. Its next meeting will be in March on a date not yet determined, according to the district's website.

All titles under review were preemptively stripped from school shelves by district officials last year. A lawsuit filed in November contends that removal violates student constitutional rights.