In August 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri organized a lawsuit against the Camdenton R-III School District on behalf of a Camdenton High School student and PFLAG National, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride, and DignityUSA. The lawsuit was filed after multiple warnings that the district’s website filtering software discriminated against LGBT content, including the websites of the plaintiffs. If a student tried to access a site related to LGBT support such as gay-straight alliances or local PFLAG chapters, they were treated as if they were attempting to access explicit material. However, anti-LGBT sites such as the National Organization for Marriage were allowed to be viewed.
The ACLU then insisted that “the district must either unblock the discriminatory “sexuality” filter or obtain other filtering software that is capable of filtering content in a viewpoint-neutral manner.”
This week, the ACLU and the school district came to a settlement agreement. LGBT supportive websites will be unblocked, and the district will submit to an 18 month monitoring period to ensure they comply. “The district will also have to pay $125,000 in costs and the market value of our attorneys’ fees in bringing this case,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Joshua Block, “The fee award is particularly important because it will help deter other schools from engaging in similar censorship.”
Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, added that “students will [now] 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.”
We’d like to pause and thank our friends at the ACLU for scoring a huge victory and helping us move equality forward for our LGBT family and friends.