Settling a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, two Tennessee school districts have agreed to lift a “block” on classroom computer access to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender informational sites on the Internet.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation commends the ACLU as well as the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and the Knox County Schools for bringing a quick end to the dispute by recognizing the need for young people to have access to information about sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
The Foundation believes that by blocking students’ access to valuable educational sites, the school districts were perpetuating a negative stereotype harmful to LGBT young people or those questioning their sexual orientation.
“Having open dialogue and free access to information is crucial for any young person grappling with sensitive identity issues, including sexual orientation, and schools should create a safe atmosphere, rather than stigmatize individuals who are simply trying to be true to themselves,” said Jason Marsden, the foundation’s executive director
Ironically, while blocking LGBT youth educational resources as if they were equivalent to obscenity or other explicit materials, the districts were continuing to allow students to visit sites condemning homosexuality or pushing “conversion therapies” aimed at turning people’s sexual orientation to heterosexual.
The school districts agree to unblock the LGBT sites under the settlement terms, which also allow the ACLU to return to court if the sites are blocked again in the future. The civil liberties group had filed suit back in May 2009 on behalf of four student plaintiffs and a school librarian.
It is unclear whether the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s own youth educational site, MatthewsPlace.com, was among those Web sites previously blocked by the school district’s network security measures.