ACLU Sues Knox, Nashville Schools for Blocking Gay Websites

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WBIR.com

ACLU Sues Knox, Nashville Schools for Blocking Gay Websites

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Knox County Schools are facing a lawsuit in federal court over the way their internet is filtered.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Knox County and Nashville
schools for blocking non-pornographic gay-oriented websites but
allowing websites that condemn homosexuality and promote programs that
aim to alter one's sexuality to heterosexual.

A Fulton High School Librarian who also sponsors the school's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is one of the plaintiffs in the case.

"Contacting the ACLU was the absolute last step in the process," said Karyn Brinks.

The process started for her almost two years ago.
That's when she discovered the internet filtering system at her school
blocked websites that support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender
issues.

The filter allowed anti-gay sites.

Two years later, it still does.

"Regardless of how you stand on an issue, you can't
speak intelligently about that issue if you don't know what the
opposition has to say," Brinks said.

Knoxville Attorney Don Bosch is not part of the
lawsuit, but he thinks the ACLU has solid arguments for equal access
and first amendment rights violations.

"Blocking one side of an argument and not blocking
another is always going to be suspect when a federal court or any court
evaluates whether or not it's appropriate," Bosch said

The ACLU said the schools are blocking students from websites that
provide information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
issues, but not blocking websites that promote "ex-gay" ministries.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Allowing access to one side of that issue, the ACLU said, is illegal viewpoint discrimination.

The ACLU argued the websites being blocked under the LGBT filter included PFLAG, GLSEN, and the Human Rights Campaign. A separate filter blocks pornographic sites.

Knox County Schools' official position at this point is no comment, citing pending litigation.

"Their side of the story is they're trying to protect
children from things children should not see," Bosch said. "There are
ways to deal with that versus blocking sites that some might find
appropriate to look at and to study."

Karyn Brinks says her students in the Gay Straight Alliance need to see those supportive sites.

"They've all encountered harassment. And some of them
don't have any support resources in their lives, so the information
they can access at school is the only strand that they can cling to,"
she said.

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