Federal law requires public schools to use web filtering software to block students’ access to pornographic websites. Unfortunately, schools often use their web filtering software to block access to sites that provide positive and useful information about LGBT issues or people, even though the websites aren’t sexually explicit in any way. When schools that block websites for LGBT rights groups still allow access to hate sites that condemn LGBT people or urge them to try to change their sexual orientation by “praying away the gay,” it’s viewpoint discrimination and it violates students’ rights under the First Amendment.

In 2011, the ACLU launched our “Don’t Filter Me!” campaign to stop public school districts from practicing viewpoint discrimination in their web filtering systems. Within seven months, we had gotten the filters changed to stop blocking pro-LGBT websites in 96 schools nationwide, improving access to information for 144,670 students. We also got most of the major web filtering companies to make changes to their software to stop automatically blocking LGBT-positive content, and we took one school that refused to change its discriminatory filtering to court—and a federal judge said we were right!

While we receive far fewer complaints of anti-LGBT web filtering in schools since the “Don’t Filter Me!” campaign wrapped up, we know it still happens sometimes. If you’ve run into a technological brick wall while trying to visit pro-LGBT websites at school, especially if the door is wide open for visiting anti-LGBT sites, we’d like to hear from you!

LGBT youth and their parents should feel free to contact us with legal concerns.  You can click here to fill out our confidential online form. If the matter is time-sensitive or you feel more comfortable contacting us by phone, you can call (212) 549-2673. This phone number is only for matters involving anti-LGBT discrimination against youth.  For help with other LGBT issues, click here. For non-LGBT issues, please contact your local ACLU affiliate.

 

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