Victory Over Unfair Web Censoring In Tennessee

We're very excited about a victory for free speech and equality in Tennessee. Two weeks after we sued two Tennessee school districts for blocking student access to online information about LGBT issues, the Knox Country school district — and possibly all others in that state — have restored access to important educational sites.

Previously, as many as 107 Tennessee school districts using software from the Education Networks of America (ENA) were blocking students from accessing a category of Web sites designated "LGBT." The designation covers a variety of educational and political LGBT sites, such as those of well-known advocacy groups like GLSEN, PFLAG and HRC.

However, the filter did not block access to sites that urge LGBT persons to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called "reparative therapy" or "ex-gay" ministries — a practice denounced as dangerous and harmful to young people by such groups as the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.

We sued on May 19, charging that blocking only one side of the issue constituted illegal viewpoint discrimination.

Last night, Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre announced that "technical adjustments" have now been made to allow access to the LGBT sites and bring the filtering into compliance with school board policy. According to McIntyre, efforts had been underway to fix the problem long before our lawsuit. That doesn't explain why they couldn't satisfactorily answer our original demand letter, which we sent before filing suit, but regardless — this is a positive sign that Tennessee schools are finally living up to their legal obligation to allow the free and open exchange of ideas and information.

Stay tuned — the case isn't over yet. Says Tricia Herzfeld, staff attorney with the ACLU of Tennessee:

We aren't dropping the lawsuit right away, but we certainly look forward to getting assurances from both school boards in this case that they will respect students' rights and refrain from this sort of censorship in the future.

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Ormond Otvos

As a former Board member in Seattle King County, I'd like to know the position of the ACLU in regards to the arrest of Hal Turner in Connecticut on "Harassing Communications" and "Fugitive from Justice" charges. Although I deplore the tone and content of Turner's diatribes, I'd like to see this huge site address this current and important problem. What specifically is the line Turner crossed?

Richard

A perversion is still a perversion regardless of popularity. Are we gonna introduce Pedophilia to the schools next? It too is practiced by many.

Paen

Because of the good work of the A.C.L.U. some kids in distress are going to be able to get their hands on information and resssources that will with out a doubt save some of their lives.
The wing nuts however will just continue to jack up the suicide rates with their hatred and perverted family values.

Proud American

Kids should not have access to homosexual sites of any kind at school. It all boils down to sex or sexual preference. This has no buisness in public schools. If this was a public library I could understand providing access to the material. It does not belong in schools.

Paen

If the right wingers got their way the only book in schools would be the bible
and every day would start with a revival meeting.

Liberator of li...

Richard Says:
June 5th, 2009 at 11:28 pm
A perversion is still a perversion regardless of popularity. Are we gonna introduce Pedophilia to the schools next? It too is practiced by many.

Pedophilia should be the most punishable law in the land. You violate a child, you get sentenced to death, bottum line.

roald

Richard...You are confusing popularity with legality, the reason we are not a pure democracy. Pedophilia is a crime because the second party cannot consent. That will not change.

roald

Ormond Otvos...Hal Turner crossed the line when he published in his blog, "It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die." Whether the ACLU will be asked to protect his freedom of speech remains an open question.

American too

"Kids should not have access to homosexual sites of any kind at school. It all boils down to sex or sexual preference. This has no buisness in public schools. If this was a public library I could understand providing access to the material. It does not belong in schools."

Pure ignorance. This is about sites that help persons of a particular sexual orientation, not about sexual acts or gay porn. Using your argument, any sites that addresses marriage between a man and woman should be blocked, because that is ultimately about sex or sexual orientation (orientation, not preference. Trust me...it is not a choice. Did you choose to be heterosexual?)

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