ACLU Launches “Don’t Filter Me” Initiative To Stop Unconstitutional Web Filtering Of LGBT Content In Schools

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Robyn Shepherd, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Launches “Don’t Filter Me” Initiative To Stop Unconstitutional Web Filtering Of LGBT Content In Schools

Organization Asks Students To Report Censorship Of Educational Web Content

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union, in partnership with Yale Law School, has launched a campaign called “Don’t Filter Me” to assess censorship of web content in public high schools. The campaign asks students to check to see if web content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities – a frequent target of censorship in schools – is blocked by their schools’ web browsers. Students can report instances of censorship to the ACLU LGBT Project.

“Students may not realize that it actually is illegal for their schools to block educational and political content geared toward the LGBT community,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “With this initiative, we hope to inform students of their rights, and let them know there is something they can do if their school is engaging in censorship.”

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, including gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups. Some schools have improperly configured their web filters to block access to websites for LGBT rights organizations such as the GSA Network and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, but allow access to sites that condemn homosexuality or urge LGBT people to try to change their sexual orientation, such as People Can Change. Some schools have also improperly configured their web filters to block news items pertaining to issues like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and deny access to support groups that could be vital for troubled LGBT youth who either don’t have access to the Internet at home, or do not feel safe accessing such information on their home computers.

“Schools harm students by denying them vital information,” said Block. “Schools not only have a legal duty to allow students access to these sites, it is also imperative that LGBT youth who are experiencing discrimination and bullying be able to access this information for their own safety.”

The ACLU has released a video showing students how to test whether or not their school is illegally filtering content, and provides instructions for reporting censorship. The video can be seen here: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/dont-filter-me

Students who want to report unconstitutional web filtering at their schools can fill out a form at: action.aclu.org/dontfilterme

More information on the ACLU’s work on LGBT school issues can be found here: www.aclu.org/safeschools

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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