If you are of high school age, you have perhaps had the experience of trying bravely to make a tiny queer space for yourself in the largely terrifying and conformist place you spend all of your time. Maybe you have decided to pick a queer topic for a research paper or history project, or are lucky enough to have a GSA and have decided to look up resources and support materials for them. Have you been immediately and crushingly shut down by a screen that looks like this?
If your reaction was to think that denying access to something called the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network at school as a gay student was sort of counterproductive, the ACLU agrees with you.
Two years ago, the ACLU contacted two Tennessee public schools whose web filters blocked nationally recognized gay/queer groups, but who allowed access to “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” sites. But now the ACLU is working to contact any school whose students aren’t able to access queer support or educational sites on the network: Their website now invites students to learn about their rights in this area and figure out if they’re being violated by their school, and “if any of the websites were blocked, we’ll get in touch with you. If your school is illegally censoring your access to information, we may be able to help you fight back!” They’re working on the basis of First Amendment rights and also the Equal Access Act, which prohibits “content-based discrimination against student speech.” Or, in the ACLU’s words:
If you attend or work in a public high school and have access to library or computer lab machines, you can now use the ACLU’s filter checklist to see how your high school is doing, and report your results to them. There isn’t a lot of power granted to you in high school to change your life or the world you live in, but this is one (easy! free!) action that might accomplish that, so maybe it’s worth taking a look?