Teens: Is Your School’s Internet Filter Blocking LGBT Sites?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Most high schools use Internet filtering software that blocks content the school district deems to be offensive, obscene or harmful to minors. However, some filters specifically block websites with LGBT content, including educational sites. For example, Lightspeed Systems software has a filter called “education.lifestyles,” that blocks websites focused on “Education about lifestyles – gay, lesbian, alternate.”  Such filters prevent students from learning about important issues,  including ones that they may be researching for school papers.

This is viewpoint-based censorship and is unconstitutional. It violates First Amendment rights to free speech. It also violates the federal Equal Access Act which ensures that schools must allow equal access to resources for all non-curricular clubs, including online educational and organizational resources.  It’s not fair to deny students in Gay-Straight Alliances – and many Washington state schools have GSAs – information that is useful to their clubs while students in all the other clubs don’t have their information blocked.

Many students may not be aware of the extent to which schools are censoring and blocking their access to these sites. The ACLU’s Don’t Filter Me campaign has set up a useful quiz to help you find out if your school is filtering your access to LGBT webpages here.