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Tennessee School Use Of Internet Filtering Stops Students From Accessing Needed Information

The American Civil Liberties Union has been called on by a school librarian and two high school students in Tennessee. The students believe that the school’s blocking of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (commonly called LGBT) issues is particularly troublesome because it does not allow students to gain information from both sides of issues, as well as limits their rights to obtain needed information.

school-comp_lab.jpgIn Tennessee, some 107 school districts have an Internet filtering software program that stops LGBT content from being displayed on school computers. This software, called Educational Networks of America filters content according to the settings selected by the district.

Because of the filtering, high quality and nationally established websites including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Human Rights Campaign and the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gay’s websites cannot be accessed.

Enter a school librarian named Karyn Storts Brinks from Fulton High School. She tried to improve the situation and change the rules, to no avail. The problem with the software is that it only allows students to get one side of the story even though the contents are in the public forum now. While it does not allow students to visit these websites, considered legitimate resources, it does allow for students to visit websites encouraging reparative therapy which has been labeled dangerous by the American Medical and Psychiatric Associations.

One student tried to access information for LGBT students on scholarships available. Others have used it to research current debates in the public venue. There is no law, federal or state wide that requires such a block. The state law does require the blocking of material deemed obscene or harmful to minors.

The hope is that with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union, there will be a solution put in place to aid these students.