Our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent letters to public high schools today demanding that schools stop censorship of web content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. The ACLU was notified that the schools were censoring material after teaming with Yale Law School to launch the “Don’t Filter Me” campaign, which asked students to check to see if their school was blocking content.
Programs that block all LGBT content violate First Amendment rights to free speech, as well as the Equal Access Act, which requires equal access to school resources for all extracurricular clubs. This means that gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and LGBT support groups must have the same access to national organizational websites as other groups such as the Key Club and the chess club. Some schools have also improperly configured their web filters to block news items related to LGBT issues and deny access to support groups, like PFLAG, that could be vital for troubled LGBT young people and their families who either don’t have access to the Internet at home, or do not feel safe accessing such information on their home computers.
Some schools have improperly configured their web filters to block access to websites for LGBT rights organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and websites pertaining to the National Day of Silence to protest anti-LGBT bullying. However, the filters sometimes allow access to sites that condemn homosexuality or urge LGBT people to try to change their sexual orientation, such as People Can Change.
The following video demonstrates how students can test whether or not their school is illegally filtering content, and provides instructions for reporting censorship can be seen here. Additionally, students who want to report unconstitutional web filtering at their schools can fill out a form here.