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: Fort Worth’s Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD agrees to stop filtering LGBT web content

We’ve told you repeatedly (here, here and here) about the ACLU’s recent efforts to get districts in Texas to stop illegally filtering online LGBT content on school computers. This week, the ACLU of Texas reported that two districts have complied with its requests: Baytown’s Goose Creek ISD and Fort Worth’s Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD.

According to the ACLU, Goose Creek was using web filtering software that blocked sites of “Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest,” and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw was using one that blocked “education.lifestyles.”

Both districts have agreed to remove the filters, and the ACLU says it is investigating several other districts in Texas — but apparently not DISD.

“No student should be denied access to legitimate information, and Goose Creek and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school officials should be commended for doing the right thing and taking prompt action to restore that access,” Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said in a press release. “All schools should ensure that their web filters are configured to provide students with viewpoint-neutral access to the Internet.”

The above video explains how to test whether your school is illegally filtering content, and you can fill out a complaint form by going here.

 

—  John Wright

If you can’t read this post at school, your district may be illegally filtering LGBT content

If your school district is illegally filtering LGBT content, you probably can’t read this post — at least not from a district computer. So, you’ll just have to read it at home and take notes so you can check tomorrow when you’re at school or work. Ready?

Earlier today we posted a story from the Associated Press about how the American Civil Liberties Union is demanding that school districts stop filtering LGBT web content in violation of federal law. As the story notes, Texas is one of a handful of states where the ACLU sent letters to school districts requesting information about web filtering. We inquired of the ACLU as to which districts in Texas received requests, but we haven’t heard back. A few years ago, according to Lambda Legal, the Dallas Independent School District agreed to allow access to web sites that were blocked at the time, including those belonging to Youth First Texas and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). DallasVoice.com was also among the sites DISD had blocked.

On Tuesday we contacted Jon Dahlander, a spokesman for DISD, and sent him a copy of the press release from the ACLU. Dahlander responded by saying that he had not seen any request from the ACLU, although he added that it may have gone to the district’s technology department. He also pointed us to the district’s policy on web filtering:

Each District computer with Internet access shall have a filtering device or software that blocks access to visual depictions that are obscene, pornographic, inappropriate for students, or harmful to minors, as defined by the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act and as determined by the Superintendent of Schools or designee. Every computer shall have a filter device or software that protects against viruses.

Because the DISD policy seems open to interpretation, we asked Dahlander to check whether the following sites are accessible from DISD computers. He said he did so and confirmed that all of them are accessible:

www.dayofsilence.org
www.itgetsbetter.org
www.thetrevorproject.org
www.gsanetwork.org
www.glsen.org
www.dallasvoice.com

Note that these are the same sites, with the exception of DallasVoice.com, that the ACLU recommends checking to determine whether your district is illegally filtering LGBT content. For more, watch the video above. If any of the LGBT sites are blocked,the ACLU recommends that you check the following anti-LGBT sites to see whether they’re also blocked:

www.NARTH.com
www.peoplecanchange.com
www.pfox.org

Dahlander said the three anti-LGBT sites are also accessible from DISD computers, which is a little scary, but hey, free speech is free speech.

Still, DISD is just one of hundreds of school districts in Texas. So if you think your district may be illegally filtering LGBT content on its computers, you can fill out the ACLU’s form by going here.

—  John Wright