Rochester Schools Reviewing Internet Filters in Response to ACLU Claim

A high school student reported to the ACLU that the school Internet filtering system blocked certain content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

is reviewing its Internet filter rules in response to a student's complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union that the district blocked some Web content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.

School officials say the content was not intentionally blocked and that the district's technology department is working to review the claim.

The student, who attends , took part in the ACLU's "Don't Filter Me" campaign, which asked students nationwide to see whether schools were blocking certain content.

“Blocking these sites not only discriminates against LGBT viewpoints but can deny LGBT students in crisis a much-needed lifeline for support," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU's LGBT Project.

This week, the ACLU sent a letter to Rochester schools and to other school districts across the country whose students reported not being able to access certain websites. The letter demanded that the schools stop the "viewpoint-based censorship."

School officials said this was the first time this issue had come to the district's attention and that a filtering committee reviews, on a case-by-case basis, when a website appears to be improperly blocked.

The school district uses DeepNines Technologies filtering software. The filtering is necessary for the district to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act, which regulates access to offensive Internet content on school and library computers.

"As with most Internet filtering software, the filter screens websites by broad categories rather than by individual sites," Superintendent David Pruneau wrote in a response to the ACLU.

The school district has a process in place if someone receives a blocked site message and thinks it may be an error, said Debbi Hartman, the district's community relations director.

The filtering system isn't perfect — for example, it once blocked the Kraft Foods website, Hartman said. But the district needs to have a system in place, and school officials work to respond quickly to any concerns that arise.

Joshua Raymond March 30, 2011 at 02:38 PM
RCS's filtering software blocks almost everything. KidSource.com "The parent's source for children's healthcare, education, safety, learning disability, software, and parenting information and discussion." is blocked by their filter. Most shopping sites are blocked too. This isn't a matter of discrimination, but that school resources should be used for school activities. Now, if they block http://RochesterSAGE.wordpress.com, then I'll yell about discrimination! ;-P
Kristin Drummelsmith March 30, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Disappointed to see ACLU's campaign wasting the school's time. School is for learning, not for surfing the net for social websites or other non-school related items.
Joshua Raymond February 16, 2012 at 08:41 PM
The last time I was at the Board of Education meeting, I noticed that the liberal Detroit Free Press was accessible, but the conservative Detroit News was blocked. Clearly this is discrimination!


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