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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ACLU to Gwinnett County schools: Why block access to LGBT websites?

The American Civil Liberties Union's Georgia chapter is telling Gwinnett County Schools to remove a filter the district recently installed that's apparently blocking access to LGBT websites. Or face a lawsuit.

And no, we're not talking about gay porn or hook-up sites (though those are surely also blocked.) The ACLU says the sites are online resources or organizations for young LGBT people. Graduating senior Nowmee Shaehab, who tipped off the nonprofit organization about the blocked sites, told WSB-TV:

Shaehab said two months ago, she tried to access the Gay-Straight Alliance website and was blocked for the first time that school year. [ed. Shehab is Brookwood High School's GSA president.] Other blocked sites included the site to the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and It Gets Better. Shehab said the websites provide information and resources for LGBT students.

"They may not feel safe at home or don’t have a computer at home so it's very important they be able to access these sites from school," she said.

“They are not sites that are pornographic or in any way provide adult content,” said Chara Fisher Jackson, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia.

The school system declined an on-air interview with WSB-TV but said in a statement that it's looking into the situation. It could be a perfectly legitimate screw-up — simply a setting in the filter software. Regardless, expect town hall meetings and at least some cringeworthy public comments at the next school board powwow. (One Atlanta redditor spotted some ire on WSB-TV's facebook page.)

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