ACLU Marks Banned Websites Awareness Day with Report on LGBT Censorship in Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org NEW YORK – Public schools across the country are largely receptive to removing web filters that block educational content related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, according to a new report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project. The report is being released on Banned Websites Awareness Day and summarizes the results of the ACLU’s “Don’t Filter Me” initiative to combat censorship of LGBT web content in public schools. “Just as schools cannot remove books from the library that support LGBT people and their legal rights, schools also cannot use discriminatory web filtering software that prevents students from accessing supportive websites,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “But, thankfully, once schools are alerted to the fact that their filters may be blocking LGBT-supportive content, the overwhelming majority have voluntarily changed their policies to provide their students with viewpoint-neutral Internet access.” The “Don’t Filter Me” campaign, in which students contacted the ACLU when they encountered LGBT censorship on school browsers, resulted in 96 schools across the country changing their filter configurations and improving access for 144,670 students. Five out of six software companies targeted by the initiative have changed their settings to distinguish educational LGBT content from adult content. The initiative was launched after complaints from students like Andrew Emitt, who attended high school in Knoxville, Tenn. “I wasn’t looking for anything sexual or inappropriate,” said Emitt. “I wasn’t looking for games or chat rooms or dating sites. I was just looking for information about scholarships for LGBT students, and I couldn’t get to it because of this software.