Governor Mifflin School District and Filtering of LGBT Online Content

February 27, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania have sent a letter requesting that school officials at Governor Mifflin School District in Berks County stop using Internet filters that violate students' First Amendment free speech rights. The district uses a "sexuality" filter that blocks sites that express support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and an "intolerance" filter that blocks political advocacy sites that are labeled as intolerant.

Junior Maison Fioravante discovered that Governor Mifflin Senior High School was blocking access to web content geared toward LGBT communities while researching for a class project on social issues. However, sites for organizations that condemn homosexuality were not blocked. Fioravante was unable to access websites for organizations like the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Safe Schools Coalition, Freedom to Marry, the Equality Federation and Lambda Legal. Those sites were blocked for falling into the commercial filtering software’s "sexuality" filter.

Although the "sexuality" filter blocks only websites that express an LGBT-supportive viewpoint, a separate filter called "intolerance" blocks some websites from organizations like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, which oppose legal protections for LGBT people.

Governor Mifflin School District uses filtering software from Smoothwall, Ltd. Last year, a federal judge ruled against a school district in Camdenton, Missouri, that refused to remove a similar discriminatory filter.

Status: Letter submitted to Governor Mifflin School District; the letter asks the district to advise the ACLU by March 14 whether and how it will address the filtering problem.

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