In a win for the ACLU’s fight against schools that selectively target gay websites, Web filter provider Lightspeed Systems has decided to drop the category that allowed schools to filter students’ access.
This is a huge victory, and should lead to a sea change among other Web filtering companies. The companies surely realize that the ACLU would keep hounding them until they made the change!
Four of the districts that received complaints from the ACLU for blocking educational gay websites – North Kansas City School District in Missouri, Downingtown Area School District in Pennsylvania, Northfield Public Schools in Minnesota and Avoca School District 37 in suburban Chicago – were customers of Lightspeed, and will now find it impossible to argue that they “accidentally” enabled the system or unknowingly prevented students from accessing gay websites.
Joshua Block, the staff attorney for the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project, says, “Many of these school districts had either activated the filter without realizing what it does or had activated it by accident,” Block said. “I think that the vast majority of school districts are trying in good faith to protect their students and didn’t have any desire to discriminate against gay content. I think this really shows that these filters don’t really serve the needs of the clients and if anything they work against the needs of the client.”
Schools apparently really did have no idea that they had filtered out LGBT content.
Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Chris Richardson said a technician turned on the filter because he thought it blocked sexually explicit material. After a staff member pointed out that educational LGBT sites were being blocked, the district tried to fix the problem but wound up only giving access to staff.
“I appreciate that it’s not even going to be there for someone to accidently activate,” Richardson said. “Because I think the reality for us is I think we’ve been a district that has tried to be very open and supportive of all of our students. It has been frustrating to us that Lightspeed would even have put this piece in without being very clear that it was kind of above and beyond.”
Blocking these positive and educational gay blogs and websites really does have a profound impact on those students seeking knowledge, education and help for the issues they face. They need full and free access to information, and this this is a great victory for the ACLU.
(via the Associated Press)