Ga. School System Blocks Gay Websites

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 07 2011 1:25 PM ET

The public school system in Gwinnett County, Ga., has installed an Internet filter that blocks students’ access to some sites with LGBT content — and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is objecting.

The Georgia ACLU sent a letter to school superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks two weeks ago informing him that such blocking was illegal, violating both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the federal Equal Access Act, which mandates equal access to school resources for all extracurricular clubs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“If you continue to censor these websites, you could be subject to legal liability and the expense of litigation,” read the letter from ACLU legal director Chara Jackson. She gave Wilbanks until last week to reply, and he had not done so as of Monday.

The ACLU became involved when a senior at Brookwood High School contacted the organization, saying she had lost access to sites she had used to plan activities for Brookwood’s gay-straight alliance. Blocking access to such sites, Jackson told the Journal-Constitution, “doesn’t serve a legitimate purpose.”

Sloan Roach, a spokeswoman for the school system, said administrators are looking into the matter. She said the filter was set up by a private contractor according to the parameters of the federal Children’s Internet Protection Act and that students and staff can request access to some filtered sites. “I don’t know the extent that there are categories or certain words that the filter picks up on,” she said.