ACLU Sues Missouri School District, Alleges Illegal Censorship Of LGBT Websites
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against a Missouri school district for using software that filters websites advocating for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
ACLU filed suit against the Camdenton R-III School District on behalf of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays National,
the Matthew Shepard Foundation,
ACLU argues that the school district ignored warnings from the organization as part of its "Don't Filter Me" project that its Internet filtering practices were unconstitutional.
The 36-page complaint filed Monday notes that Camdenton's software blocks sites like ones belonging to the plaintiff organizations, which provide information for preventing anti-gay bullying and other student resources like access to gay-straight alliances. But at the same time, the district's censorship doesn't cut off access to comparable anti-LGBT sites, ACLU says.
"We have made every effort to inform the school district that its filtering software illegally denies students access to important educational information and resources on discriminatory grounds," Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri said in a statement Monday. "Unfortunately, it will now be up to the courts to compel the district to grant its students viewpoint-neutral access to the Internet."
The lawsuit seeks, among several items, to uproot the district's use of the current filtering software and relief from nominal damages for constitutional rights violation.
Blocking sites that advocate for the LGBT community makes it more difficult for students to complete assignments about current events and hinders LGBT students' abilities to access information that could help them "with the difficult issues of coming out to family members, integrating their sexuality and religious faith, dealing with the threat of bullying, and surviving high school as an LGBT person," according to the complaint.
ACLU says that Camdenton's custom-built filtering software has a "viewpoint-neutral" URL Blacklist that blocks sexually explicit sites, but also has a "viewpoint-discriminatory" category titled "sexuality" that also blacklists non-sexually explicit LGBT pages, but permits access to anti-LGBT sites.