Gay rights group sues Missouri school district over website blocks

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A school district in Missouri, US, is being sued by a gay rights group for restricting access to informative gay websites.

Camdenton R-III School District is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, which says that the district has ignored warnings that its actions are unconstitutional.

The ACLU has been writing to schools and school districts across the country to demand that they cease filtering informative or supportive LGBT websites which have no explicit content.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a number of gay rights groups whose websites are blocked by the district: PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Campus Pride and DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBT organisation.

The ACLU notes that comparable anti-gay websites are still accessible.

Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, said: “We have made every effort to inform the school district that its filtering software illegally denies students access to important educational information and resources on discriminatory grounds

“Unfortunately, it will now be up to the courts to compel the district to grant its students viewpoint-neutral access to the internet.”

The ACLU contacted the school district in May to question its internet filtering policy. In response, the district unblocked four gay websites but refused to reconfigure its filter to allow others.

The lawsuit argues it is discriminatory and unreasonable to require students to ask for permission every time they want to access a new LGBT website when students can freely access anti-LGBT websites.

But district uperintendent Tim Hadfield said that the ACLU was mistaken about the type of software being used.

“The ACLU said we were using that specific type of software and we are not,” he told LakeNewsOnline. “Our district technology administration has created a system for the district. ”

He added: “We do not specifically filter sites promoting alternative lifestyles. We do specifically block sites that are inappropriate and will continue to do so. We disagree with their position and turned the issue over to our attorney to address.”