NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Michigan and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri sent letters to public high schools on March 28 asking that the 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.
“We’re pleased that students around the country are responding to the initiative by asserting their rights and letting their schools know that censorship is unacceptable,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “Blocking these sites not only discriminates against LGBT viewpoints, but can deny LGBT students in crisis a much-needed lifeline for support.”
According to the ACLU, 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 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.
The organization also claims that 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 ACLU has given the schools until April 4 to respond.