School & District Management

ACLU: Campaign Against LGBT Filtering Effective

By Ian Quillen — September 29, 2011 1 min read

Ninety-six schools nationwide have stopped blocking educational websites that favorably depict lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered, or LGBT, people, thanks to efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union’s “Don’t Filter Me” campaign, says a report from the ACLU.

But it has found several districts not to be compliant with requests to alter filtering practices, filing a lawsuit against one and apparently considering litigation against several others, the report said. In some cases, districts have contended that changing their filtering practices would violate the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act, or CIPA, which has been the legal basis for most school Web filtering, district officials have told us.

(Be sure to look for much more on this in our fall issue of Digital Directions.)

The campaign, the report says, has also prompted reforms in five leading filtering software companies in how they categorize websites that offer LGBT-related content that is educational and age-appropriate for middle and high school students. Among them, Lightspeed Systems and Fortinet have agreed to completely remove categories that give a unique, blockable label to pro-LGBT sites.

To wage its battle, the ACLU has asked students to test whether their schools allow access to sites like the the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Trevor Project, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and then whether schools allow access to sites that oppose LGBT lifestyles, such as People Can Change and parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays. It has then used student feedback to launch investigations into schools and districts.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.