ACLU tells 3 more school districts — including 2 in N. Texas — to stop blocking LGBT web content

The ACLU of Texas reports that it has sent letters to three more school districts — including two in North Texas — demanding that they stop illegally blocking access to LGBT websites on district computers.

The letters were Tuesday to the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD; the Northwest ISD, which covers parts of Northern Tarrant, Southwestern Denton and Southeastern Wise counties; and the Aldine ISD near Houston. This brings to five the total number of school districts in Texas that have received letters as part of the ACLU’s “Don’t Filter Me” initiative.

Earlier this month, the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD in Fort Worth and the Goose Creek School District in Baytown agreed to stop blocking LGBT content in response to demand letters from the ACLU. The organization says anti-LGBT filtering programs violate the First Amendment and the federal Equal Access Act.

“We are seeing a pattern across the country in which school districts have enabled anti-LGBT filters without understanding how they work,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “Software companies need to make schools understand that these products are programmed specifically to target LGBT-related content that would not otherwise be blocked as inappropriate, and that these types of filters are not required by law. There is no legitimate reason why any public school should be using an anti-LGBT filter.”

Watch the above video to determine whether your district is illegally filtering LGBT content. To report illegal filtering, go here.

—  John Wright

ACLU accuses Texas’ Goose Creek school district of building a cyber-dam to block LGBT content

A while back we told you about the American Civil Liberties Union’s effort to get school districts in Texas and several other states to stop illegally filtering LGBT content on the Web. And we’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, a student in Baytown’s Goose Creek school district saw our post and contacted the ACLU.

Either way, the Goose Creek district now stands accused of maintaining a cyber-dam to shield its little goslings from the gay stuff. According to MyFox Houston, district officials say they received a public information request from the ACLU Foundation of Texas on April 7 about their web filtering practices. But you’ll never guess the Google search that led to the ACLU’s investigation:

ACLU’s outcry stems from a Goose Creek Memorial High student’s research for a news story about Chik-Fil-A donating to anti-gay organizations. The senior’s search hit a bump when several sites appearing on Google News were blocked by the district.

The ACLU says the district is violating free speech rights as well as the Equal Access Act. By failing to remain “viewpoint neutral,” the ACLU claims the district is denying helpful support information for gay or transgendered students.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rally in support of Gay Straight Alliance outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi

As many as 150 people gathered outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi on Friday to protest the school district’s decision to deny a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Flour Bluff High School student Bianca “Nikki” Peet, 17, has been trying to launch the GSA since November.

Last week, Flour Bluff Superintendent Julia Carbajal announced that the district would bar all non-curricular clubs from meeting on campus in order to avoid allowing the GSA.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded by threatening legal action against the district, saying officials are required to allow the GSA under the First Amendment and the federal Equal Access Act.

On Friday, supporters of the GSA rallied outside the school for eight hours and presented a petition with more than 28,000 signatures to a district spokesman. A handful of anti-gay counterprotesters, led by right-wing radio host Bob Jones, gathered across the street.

At one point, according to the video report below, a pro-GSA protester tried to give a couterprotester some water. The counterprotester responded by saying he wouldn’t touch anything a gay man had, telling him to “stay away from my grandson.”

—  John Wright

ACLU threatens to sue Corpus Christi school district for refusing to allow Gay Straight Alliance

The ACLU is demanding that Flour Bluff ISD officials allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi or face legal action.

The principal of Flour Bluff High School has refused to allow the GSA proposed by student Nikki Peet, and the district superintendent has threatened to eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing the GSA.

The ACLU, which is representing Peet, says the district is in violation of the federal Equal Access Act because it has allowed other non-curricular clubs — including the chess club; the Key Club; the Family, Careers, Community Leaders of America; and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to meet on campus.

“Because Flour Bluff High has opened the door to non-curricular clubs on campus, it is required by law to permit the GSA club,” the ACLU writes in its letter dated today.

The ACLU also maintains that it’s illegal for the district to eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing the GSA.

“Recently, a federal court in Mississippi held that when the school district canceled the prom in response to a student’s request to bring a same-sex date, the district violated the student’s First Amendment rights,” the ACLU said. “The proposed action by the District here is no different than the cancellation of the prom that the court held in McMillen to be unconstitutional.”

The ACLU gives the district until March 9 to respond.

“If you refuse to comply with your obligations under the EAA and the First Amendment, we will take whatever steps necessary to protect the rights of our client, Ms. Peet,” the letter states.

Read the ACLU’s letter here.

As we reported earlier, a protest is planned outside Flour Bluff High School on Friday.

—  John Wright

GSA supporters to protest outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi on Friday

Nikki Peet

A pro-equality demonstration is planned Friday outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi, where officials say they’ll eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Paul Rodriguez, president of the GSA at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said he’s expecting more than 300 people to attend the protest.

Rodriguez has been working with 17-year-old Flour Bluff student Nikki Peet since November to launch the GSA. After the Flour Bluff principal refused to allow the GSA, district officials announced they’ll bar all non-curricular clubs from meeting on campus — including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to avoid running afowl of the federal Equal Access Act.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” Rodriguez told Instant Tea. “I couldn’t believe that an administration of a public school would actually go to that length to show hatred, to show intolerance. It’s just appalling.”

Rodriguez said supporters of the GSA have contacted both Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, which are investigating. But the goal of the protest is to convince district officials to change their minds.

“As far as Nikki and her supporters go, they were very nervous about going to school today, because they don’t know what kind of hostility or bullying they’re going to face,” Rodriguez said. “They’re afraid they’re going to get blamed for all the non-curricular clubs not being allow to meet. We’re hoping to redirect that anger to where it really belongs. If we can get all those people on board and join us in this fight for equality, that would just be awesome.

“We want equality to rein at Flour Bluff,” he added. “We want them to open their eyes and realize that everyone is human, everyone can co-exist. You don’t have to like us, you don’t have to agree with us, but you do have to co-exist with us.”

For more information on the protest, go here.

—  John Wright