ACLU Thinks Gay Students Should Be Able To Access, Like, GLSEN Maybe?

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?

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Surprisingly enough none of the websites on the list were blocked from my school. That includes the gay websites and the “pray away the gay” websites. It’s odd though since so many sites are blocked.

  2. This is amazing. In high school I used to get so frustrated that “lesbian” was censored, but in Quinlan it was for offensive material /pornography. All I wanted to do was read webcomics like “I was kidnapped by lesbian pirates from outer space!”

  3. I would totally do this, except I’m in England.

    Autostraddle eds: Yours is the only site I’ve tried to access at school that I can’t specifically because of “Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual content.” (Others I can’t access because they are blogs.) I could understand if it was the nudity (i.e. the calendar girls)but no. Gayness is bad.

    • Autostraddle is blocked in my school (and all schools in new york city because they all use the same web filter) under the same reason, and my friend who did her exit project on the topic of gay marriage said that she couldn’t do any research at the school library because of the same filter.

      • Then you should follow the link in this article to the ACLU survey. What your school is doing is illegal and you should report it.

  4. I’m accessing this right now from school, and the only site that was blocked was the It Gets Better site, although I’ve had issues in the past accessing the Pride Foundation scholarship website, specifically on the day the application was due…

  5. Can this be a thing for work computers too? Autostraddle is blocked as “mature content,” but so are “lgbt issues” and “abortion/advocacy” (though the latter is pretty lax if you click around a bit). Still, grrr.

    • I might be wrong, but employers might have a bit more ability to block stuff. Check with your local ACLU chapter (or relevant equivalent if you’re outside of the States) if you’re not sure, though!

  6. When I was in high school I was surprised by being blocked from a website linked to a university library. The reason cited in the block was “contains literature.” No joke! That was actually the reason given to me. When I approached the librarians they could only shrug and apologize for the administration.
    I didn’t even bother looking up LGBT information after that. I’ll definitely pass this article along to an old teacher of mine in the high school so that she can investigate the situation herself.

    • WOW. This would be hilarious if it weren’t true. Maybe the schools will be able to sidestep the ACLU by blocking gay stuff with a message that just says “CONTAINS INTERNET” instead.

  7. Also, want to put it out there that a lot of people in the library community are discussing this – just wrote a paper about it and am aware of several people who will be publishing on the need to access lgbtq sites.

  8. Wow, I thought my high school’s filtering program was dumb and possibly breaking a few laws, but at least they never did any of this!

  9. when i was in high schooliI was doing a project on gay marriage and i had to do all of my research at home because the computers blocked anything gay based on it being “Lifestyle”, but any time i searched for something else that could potentially fall under “Lifestyle” i was allowed to view it. i complained multiple times to the school to no avail.

  10. When I was doing a project for history class my senior year, I discovered that was blocked. I don’t even need a punchline for that.

  11. Pingback: Being A Gay “Good Example” in Australia | Sidney Daily News

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