The ACLU LGBT Project, ACLU First Amendment Working Group, and the ACLU of Tennessee have demanded that two Tennessee public school districts stop illegally preventing students from accessing online information about LGBT issues. Knox County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools use web filtering software that blocks student access to the websites of many well-known national LGBT organizations, including PFLAG, GLSEN, and HRC. While access to LGBT-positive websites is prevented by the filtering software, students are still able to reach anti-gay sites, including websites 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, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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Blocking students’ access to content that is protected speech under the First Amendment as well as the Tennessee state constitution, and only allowing access to one side of an issue by blocking certain websites is illegal viewpoint discrimination, according to a letter the ACLU sent to the districts and the Tennessee Schools Cooperative. We’re asking them to come up with a plan to restore access to the LGBT sites or any other category that blocks non-sexual websites advocating the fair treatment of LGBT people by the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.
Status: Victory! The company that provides Internet filtering software to as many as 107 Tennessee school districts has adjusted the software to allow access to pro-LGBT Web sites that were previously blocked.