PFLAG v. Camdenton R-III School District

April 6, 2012

As part of our “Don’t Filter Me” campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a federal lawsuit against a school district in Camdenton, Missouri, whose Internet filtering software blocks access to web content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. The ACLU is joined in the lawsuit by LGBT organizations whose websites are blocked by the filter: Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride, and DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBT organization.

The Camdenton R-III School District’s custom-built filtering software relies on a database of websites that has a viewpoint-discriminatory category called “sexuality,” which blocks all LGBT-supportive information, including many websites that are not sexually explicit in any way. The filter does, however, allow students to view anti-LGBT sites. After the ACLU contacted the district to inform the district that the sexuality filter was unconstitutionally blocking access to four websites with anti-bullying information and other resources for student gay-straight alliances, the district unblocked those four specific websites but refused to reconfigure its software to remove the broader problem. As a result, hundreds of other LGBT websites remain blocked, including those of our plaintiffs.

Our lawsuit argues that the district must either unblock the discriminatory “sexuality” filter or obtain other filtering software that is capable of filtering content in a viewpoint-neutral manner.

STATUS: VICTORY! In February 2012, a federal judge ordered the school district to stop using the discriminatory filter. In March 2012, the district agreed in a settlement to stop blocking pro-LGBT sites, submit to monitoring for 18 months to confirm compliance and pay $125,000 in legal fees and costs.

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