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ACLU threatens to sue school district over 'discriminatory' internet filters

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ACLU internet filter
ACLU internet filter

Earlier today, the Amerian Civil Liberties Union addressed a pointed letter to Pennsylvania's Governor Mifflin School District after a student discovered her high school was blocking access to select LGBT-related websites. The ACLU letter, addressed to superintendent Dr. Daniel Balinski, alleges that GMSD's current web filter is "discriminatory and unconstitutional." Late last year, while researching a social issues project, student Maison Fioravante realized that her school's filtering software — provided by a company called Smoothwall — was blocking LGBT-supportive sites under the guise of a "sexuality" violation. She initially responded by authoring a petition demanding that the school reform its filtering activities, an effort which so far has earned over 3,200 signatures.

The ACLU, perhaps a more powerful ally, is none too pleased with Fioravante's findings and points to a recent federal lawsuit where similar "viewpoint discrimination" was found to be unconstitutional, leaving one school district with a significant legal bill.

However, it turns out Governor Mifflin School District is also preventing students from accessing advocacy sites that promote an anti-gay marriage agenda. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council are also being filtered out due to their "intolerant" viewpoints. As sensitive and controversial as some of those websites may be, the ACLU nonetheless says blocking them is a blatant First Amendment violation. In turn, it's urging the district to "immediately reconfigure its Smoothwall filtering system so that it operates in a viewpoint-neutral manner" or if that proves too difficult, to find a new firewall provider altogether. It's giving Governor Mifflin until March 14th to respond, threatening legal action if the district fails to "bring its filtering software into line with the First Amendment."