ACLU sues Metro Schools for blocking access to gay Web sites

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 3:53pm

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal suit against Metro Nashville Public Schools, alleging that the district has unconstitutionally blocked students’ access to Internet sources of information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. A similar suit was also filed against Knox County Schools.

The ACLU — as well as the ACLU of Tennessee — publicly named concerns about Web access in a public letter to Tennessee school districts last month. At that time, the organization said it would file suit against school districts that did not have a plan for addressing those concerns in place by April 29.

Metro Nashville Public Schools declined to comment on the case Tuesday, referring all questions to Metro Nashville’s legal department. A Metro legal attorney who works with Metro Schools was unavailable for comment.

According to the ACLU, about 80 percent of Tennessee’s public school districts — including MNPS — currently use Internet Filtering Software provided through contracts with Education Networks of America (ENA). Some of the districts using this software have enabled a filter called “LGBT,” which blocks the Web sites of several nationally known LGBT information and advocacy organizations.

Some of the organizations blocked include Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Marriage Equality USA, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

This particular filter is not intended to block Web sites that are pornographic or obscene, according to the ACLU. Rather, the ACLU letter quotes information from ENA stating that the “LGBT” filter blocks sites that “provide information regarding, support, promote or cater to one’s sexual orientation, or gender identity including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sites.”

“Students need to be able to access information about their legal rights or what to do if they're being harassed at school,” said Keila Franks, a 17-year-old student at Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville and a plaintiff in the case, in a statement from the ACLU.

Plaintiffs in the case are Nashville students Franks and Emily Logan, Knoxville student Bryanna Shelton, and Karyn Storts-Brinks, a Knoxville high school librarian. The suit against MNPS was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.


7 Comments on this post:

By: Alphadog7 on 5/20/09 at 7:51

Any school should block all websites in which things of a sexual nature the main topic. If my kid views not just sexual content but even related discussion on campus (hetero or homo) I would be PO'd. If a kid is harassed, they should go to their counsellor or principal or their parents. These are not adults.

By: pandabear on 5/20/09 at 7:59

You know, this is becoming just about the stupidest world
there ever was. Who in their right mind wants sexual stuff
presented to kids, especially this sick stuff ?

The power that lets the ACLU go this far needs to be cut
before it's forceably cut off.

People will only stand for so much, especially when it comes to kids.

By: SirKnight on 5/20/09 at 8:16

What gets me more than anything on this is that it will cost us taxpayers to even deal with this and defend against. Maybe they have a point and maybe they don't.

But if they sue and succeed, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY the ACLU if they win!! Aren't we?

What is wrong with this picture?

By: Schuss on 5/20/09 at 8:48

The ACLU is the DEVIL.

By: foxeyes2 on 5/20/09 at 10:10

These web sites are NOT sexual in nature. There is no pornography, no erotica, nothing at all that would be inappropraite for GLBT students to look at or read. The fileter in question blocks websites that gives support to gay and lesbian students. There is no block on sites that are anti-gay in nature. So again it has nothing to do with naked people but with sexual orientation. The ACLU will prevail and we the taxpayers will be out money defending this lawsuit because of the ignorance of prejudice of a few small minded bigots.

By: lawburgtn on 5/20/09 at 11:02

This website has nothing to do with the school's curriculum and should remain blocked. If a CHILD needs access to these sites, they should consult their PARENTS about the access. It is NOT the school system's (tax payer's) responsibility. The kids are at school to be educated based on the curriculum; anything else is a distraction. There are avenues in place to handle harassment for being gay: guidance counselor, teacher, principle, school resource officer, PARENTS, and the school board.

By: SirKnight on 5/20/09 at 11:23

foxeyes, you are assuming MNPS is guilty just because the ACLU says they are.

How do you know someone who set the filter parameters is 'small-minded and bigoted'?

I have a filter on my computer for my kids and I have NO IDEA how to allow for non-sexually related gay or lesbian websites through while blocking pornographic material ,,,,,and I'm pretty good with software designs. Does this make me small-minded and bigoted, too?? Yikes!