School officials in Prince William County were blindsided on Monday with a letter from the ACLU threatening a lawsuit over Internet filters on gay and lesbian sites. According to the Gainesville Times:
The letter, signed by Rebecca Glenberg and Joshua Block of the ACLU of Virginia, states that the school system is blocking gay support group sites in violation of students’ First Amendment rights.
The issue is filtering software that blocks access to, among other sites, the Gay Student Alliance Network, Day of Silence and It Gets Better.
“The Prince William County Public Schools do not have a legitimate pedagogical basis for censoring students’ access to these websites, which provide support and resources for LGBT students and gay-straight alliances,” states the letter.
PWC Spokesman Ken Blackstone had the following to say on the subject, in the same article:
“The ACLU is making some claims and we’re reviewing them to see if they’re accurate and to see how we can respond to that,” he said. “They bring up important points.”
Blackstone said the school system is required by federal law to use Internet filtering software to keep students and staffers from looking at inappropriate content at school.
The school software, Blue Coat Filtering, filters 32 different categories. It doesn’t distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate. Generally, if students or staff believe something is being filtered that is acceptable for use, there is a process by which the site can be reviewed and unlocked. Mr. Blackstone said that no such request, to his knowledge, has been submitted for review of the sites for student appropriateness.