The ACLU has sent a letter to school officials in Tennessee threatening a lawsuit over public schools in that state blocking access to all LGBT websites from school computers.
In a letter dated April 15, the organization said as many as 80 percent of Tennessee’s public school districts, including Knox County and Metro Nashville schools, might be restricting access to non-sexual sites that offer educational and political information about issues such as gay marriage or groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.
Here’s what prompted the complaint:
“When I found out about this web filtering software, I wasn’t looking for anything sexual or inappropriate–I was looking for information about scholarships for LGBT students, and I couldn’t get to it because of this software,” said Andrew Emitt, a 17-year-old senior at Central High School in Knoxville. “Our schools shouldn’t be keeping students in the dark about LGBT organizations and resources.”
In its letter, the ACLU gives the districts until April 29 to come up with a plan to restore access to these sites by the beginning of the 2009-10 school year.
“Students … are being denied access to content that is protected speech under the First Amendment, as well as the Tennessee state constitution,” said Tricia Herzfeld, staff attorney with the ACLU of Tennessee. “This kind of censorship does nothing but hurt students, whether they’re being harassed at school and want to know about their legal rights or are just trying to finish an assignment for a class.”
This will be worth watching.