The ACLU is now demanding that the district lift the filters, or they could face a lawsuit.
The ACLU first heard about the filters in Gwinnett County when graduating senior Nowmee Shaehab notified them that she could no longer access certain LGBT-related websites she previously could.
“The website was blocked. It said access denied, Shaehab told Channel 2s Kerry Kavanaugh.
Shaehab said two months ago, she tried to access the Gay-Straight Alliance website and was blocked for the first time that school year. 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 dont 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.
She said across the country, school districts have been purchasing software that filters access to various websites for safety reasons.
It’s unclear if the Gwinnett County School District was aware of the filters for the LGBT sites.
“These are students that are sometimes in most need of that information and want to know about their rights,”Jackson said.
The ACLU gave Kavanaugh the letter it sent to the district demanding the LGBT filters be removed or face legal action.
The Gwinnett County School district declined to do an on-camera interview with Channel 2 but schools spokesman Jorge Quintana sent a statement that said, “We have received the letter from the ACLU and are looking into the concerns raised. Following guidelines from CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act), the school system does filter Internet content. That said, if a student or employee needs access to a site for a legitimate instructional or work purpose they can make a request for that access.”
“That’s problematic because why should a student have to ask specifically for information that they have a right to access, Jackson said. Software companies blocking LGBT sites seems like they’re trying to filter us, Shaehab said.
The ACLU gave the Gwinnett school district until May 30 to respond to their demand letter. They have not received a response as of yet.