ACLU Files Suit in Missouri over Blacklisted LGBT Sites

August 17, 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed suit August 15 on behalf of four gay-rights organizations whose websites are blocked by the Camdenton (Mo.) R-III School District. The plaintiffs are Campus Pride; DignityUSA, a Catholic organization in support of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; PFLAG National (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays); and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Filed four days before the 2011–2012 academic year was to begin for the school district, the complaint contends (PDF file) that Camdenton’s custom-built filtering software blocks through its “sexuality” category all LGBT-supportive information, including many websites that are not sexually explicit in any way. This practice continues, says the ACLU, despite the district having removed from its blacklist earlier this year four websites that the ACLU singled out in a May 24 letter (PDF file) as being non-explicit and offering anti-bullying information and other resources for student gay-straight alliances.

While the lawsuit argues that the district must reconfigure its “sexuality” filter setting to function in a viewpoint-neutral manner, Superintendent Tim Hadfield said in the August 12 Lake of the Ozarks Lake Sun that the ACLU has misinterpreted the district’s internet policy. “We do not specifically filter sites promoting alternative lifestyles,” he told the newspaper. “We do specifically block sites that are inappropriate and will continue to do so. We disagree with [the ACLU’s] position and turned the issue over to our attorney to address.”

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for Western Missouri, is PFLAG v. Camdenton R-III School District, and is the first court action resulting from the two-year-old “Don’t Filter Me” campaign that has teamed the ACLU with Yale Law School.