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ACLU sues Missouri school district for illegally censoring LGBT websites

ACLU sues Missouri school district for illegally censoring LGBT websites

CAMDENTON, Mo. — The Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., against the Camdenton school district, alleging that web filters on school computers are unconstitutionally blocking access to hundreds of LGBT websites.

“Can’t say we didn’t warn them.

“Back in May, as part of our Don’t Filter Me project, the ACLU sent a letter to the Camdenton School District informing them that the web filters they use on school computers were unconstitutionally blocking access to hundreds of LGBT websites, including sites that contain anti-bullying information and other resources for student gay-straight alliances. We informed them that if they failed to disable the filter, they would be ‘subject to legal liability and the expense of litigation…’

“The school district brushed us off. So today, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of four of the organizations whose sites are being blocked by the district’s filter: PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride and DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBT organization. At the same time, the filter does not block access to comparable anti-gay sites.

via: ACLU

A spokesman for the ACLU noted that the Camdenton school’s web filter software was classifying all LGBT topics, grouping them into a “sexuality” category, which are then instantly blocked.

Camdenton school’s superintendent, Tim Hadfield, disputed the ACLU’s assertion that the filter that his district technology administration’s system employs specifically filter sites promoting “alternative” lifestyles. Hadfiled went on to say the district’s filters only blocks sites that are inappropriate, and would continue to do so.

The Camdenton school district has more than 4,200 students with nine school facilities on three campuses. There are more than 300 teachers and 600 other employees in the district.

Jody Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG National, said in a statement released Monday:

Our Safe Schools program resources, coming-out guides and other support and education resources that we have been providing to LGBT young people nationwide for nearly 40 years are all blocked. Many LGBT students either don’t have access to the Internet at home or, if they do, they don’t feel safe accessing this information on their home computers.

In order to ensure the physical and mental well-being of LGBT youth — especially given the wide access to negative information on LGBT issues — these resources must be accessible.

A comprehensive 2009 study of over 7,000 middle and high school students reported that nine out of 10 LGBT students say they had experienced harassment at their school in the past year based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds said they felt unsafe at school.

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