The Goose Creek ISD is one of four in the country being sent letters from the American Civil Liberties Union saying students' civil rights are being violated because the district blocks gay-related content from its school computers.
One student said he was trying to research a story on complaints about Chick-Fil-A supporting anti-gay organizations and was blocked from seeing Google News stories on the subject.
The ACLU says that a message comes up a "demeaning and stigmatizing message" that the site is blocked because it has been found to have "Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual interest."
Also blocked, the ACLU says, is a website conected with the It Gets Better project, a support program for bullied gay youths that has been endorsed by President Obama.
"There is no legitimate reason why any public school should be using an anti-LGBT filter," said Joshua Block, staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Project. "This is not a case where overbroad filters are accidentally filtering out LGBT websites. These filters are designed to discriminate and are programmed specifically to target LGBT-related content that would not otherwise be blocked as sexually explicit or inappropriate."
Goose Creek ISD issued a statement saying it will "adhere to the law in this and all matters":
Goose Creek CISD received a Public Information Request from the ACLU Foundation of Texas at noon on Thursday, April 7, 2011, and our Chief Technology Officer responded within 24 hours. This request was regarding the district's Internet filtering software, blocking, and associated processes.
Today, April 11, 2011, the district received a faxed letter from the ACLU Foundation of Texas regarding its Internet software blocking process, specifically websites in the category of "Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest." In the letter, our Superintendent was asked to respond by April 18, 2011. He referred this letter to the district's legal counsel for investigation. Goose Creek CISD will adhere to the law in this and all matters.
The ACLU says some students nationwide had reported district opening up specific sites after questions were raised, but Block says that's not enough.
"Unblocking individual sites is not a viable solution," he said. "As long as the anti-LGBT filter is in place, students will be confronted with a demeaning and stigmatizing message that the site has been blocked on account of its LGBT-related content. It's unfair to put students in the difficult position of asking special permission before being allowed to access LGBT viewpoints. Public schools have a duty to provide students with viewpoint-neutral access to the Internet."
The ACLU's action comes as part of its "Don't Filter Me" project.