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Court orders Missouri school district to stop censoring LGBT websites

Friday, February 17, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A federal district court has ruled that a Missouri school district must stop using filtering software to censor web content geared toward the LGBT community.

The ruling Wednesday orders the Camdenton R-III School District to discontinue filtering content that includes LGBT-supportive information, including hundreds of websites that are not sexually explicit in any way. The filter did, however, allow students to view anti-LGBT sites that condemn homosexuality or opposed legal protections for LGBT people.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Western Missouri filed a lawsuit against the district in August 2011 after repeated warnings that its custom-built filtering software discriminates against LGBT content.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Camdenton High School student and LGBT organizations whose websites are blocked by the filter: PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride and DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBT organization.

“The court correctly recognized the constitutional rights of all students to viewpoint-neutral access to information,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project.

“It is absolutely possible to protect children from sexually explicit content while also protecting their First Amendment rights. Like thousands of other school districts across the country, Camdenton R-III will now begin using a filtering system that blocks pornography without discriminating against LGBT-related content,” said Block.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri said that the district’s filtering system “systematically allows access to websites expressing a negative viewpoint toward LGBT individuals by categorizing them as ‘religion,’ but filters out positive viewpoints toward LGBT issues by categorizing them as ‘sexuality.’”

Although the district argued that it would unblock individual websites upon request, the court held that “students may be deterred from accessing websites expressing a positive view toward LGBT individuals either by the inconvenience of having to wait twenty-four hours for access or by the stigma of knowing that viewpoint has been singled out as less worthy by the school district and the community.”

The court also concluded that other filtering systems are available that “are much more effective” at filtering out pornography “and do so without burdening websites that express a positive viewpoint toward LGBT individuals.”

“The filtering system that had been installed at Camdenton R-III was arbitrary, ineffective and discriminatory,” said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “Today’s ruling affirms that students will be free to search for resources for their gay-straight alliance, seek support against bullying and research history as it pertains to LGBT people, just as they would for any other subject.”

via: ACLU

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Filed under: Missouri

19 more reader comments:

  1. If you aren’t blocking every SINGLE website then don’t just block out the LGBTQ websites… jus’ sayin. a tad bit one sided… wouldn’t you have to agree with that one missouri?

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9:41am
  2. My high school blocked all LGBT content, which was one of the reasons I was terrified to come out at that point in my life. I wish I had the guts to fight those filters.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9:46am
  3. Bigotry and discrimination must be slapped down at every single occurrence. It should never be tolerated for a second.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9:49am
  4. thats right, even if I’m sick as a dog and don’t have time to care, I MAKE myself care. Intolerance should never be tolerated.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9:54am
  5. My high school blocked LGBT content as well, which was terrible because my Junior year, I had to write a paper about the Stonewall Riots and almost all content was blocked.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:04am
  6. About time.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:41am
  7. Awesome!

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:49am
  8. As a native Missourian I’m glad to see this. It’s time to stop the hate. It’s 2012 people!

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 11:32am
  9. It’s about time!

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 11:37am
  10. When I first heard there were school districts who still did this, I couldn’t believe it.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 11:39am
  11. yayyyy bout time my h.s didnt even let me have a gay straight alliance and i think all skools should starting in middle skool

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 11:48am
  12. It’s great that people like us have stuff like this

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:16pm
  13. I think its reasonable to sencer sex orented things, but not sexuality orented things.

    Posted on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:35pm
  14. Way to go !!

    Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 11:26am
  15. Good!

    Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 11:28am
  16. Well… there IS this pesky thing called the first amendment, y’know… and since school districts are paid for with taxpayer monies, it could logically be argued that schools are, in some form, a part of the federal government… oh, and that pesky U.S. Secretary of Education dude, too.

    <3 this… :-D

    Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 11:29am
  17. What drooling dead fucking asshole decided to censor them in the first place? What went through his thick head? What were his reasons?

    Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 11:30am
  18. Probably republicans. They think what they say goes for every one fuckin idiot asholes

    Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 11:32am
  19. They need to do this at my school, since they’re censored there TT__TT

    Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 11:54am