Equity & Diversity

ACLU, Yale Law School Run Campaign Against Filtering LGBT Content

By Ian Quillen — June 15, 2011 1 min read

The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School are collaborating on a “Don’t Filter Me” campaign to ask students to check if lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender resources are being blocked by their schools’ Internet filters.

Some schools, according to the ACLU, are guilty of filtering all LGBT content and thus infringing on free-speech rights as well as the Equal Access Act, which requires schools to give access to resources (including those on the Web) to all extracurricular clubs, includinggay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups. The Equal Access Act was passed in 1984 after lobbying from religious groups that wanted to ensure the rights of students to conduct Bible-study programs during lunch or after school.

In addition, the ACLU says, other schools have been found to block equal-rights advocacy organization websites like those of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, while allowing access to sites that condemn homosexuality or insist homosexuals can be transformed into heterosexuals, such as People Can Change.

While the ACLU lumps these dual claims together, they could stem, if true, from two very different causes.

Biased blocking of only sites that show LGBT issues positively points to a chief technology officer and/or a school culture with a specific and purposeful agenda.

But blocking all LGBT-related content could point to a chief technology officer who either hasn’t targeted inappropriate material carefully enough using a filtering system’s parameters, or is using a system that lacks enough nuance.

A lack of complexity in filtering is a dwindling but still-common complaint in some schools, especially as teachers look to use more complex and less restricted Web tools in their daily classroom operations.

The ACLU has taken action on claims of LGBT-based filtering in at least 23 states, and sent letters demanding a halt to such filtering in six since the initiative began on Feb. 15.

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