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Home » News

Two months and a needless lawsuit later, Internet access restored

Submitted by on Monday, 8 June 2009 No Comment
It's right chivalrous of Education Networks of America to take the fall for officials in two Tennessee school districts that were sued after they banned students from accessing Web sites with information about lesbian, gay, sexual and transgender groups.

David Pierce, president and CEO of Education Networks of America, Monday told eSchool News that his company had removed the blocks in Tennessee and Indiana as well. That should end a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed in May when Tennessee officials refused to unblock the sites.

Except his company never applied to blocks. Oh, it might have been his company's software and its homophobic categories and descriptions that led to the block, but when it comes right down to it, the decision was school officials.

It's right there in black and white pixels:  Complete lists of the various blocks ENA offers customers - but doesn't force them to use - and which ones Tennessee and Indiana officials selected. Yes, selected.

The districts tried to deflect: ""As you are aware, the Internet filtering software used by our Internet service provider, ENA, was not in compliance with school board policy with respect to certain gay and lesbian Web sites," Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre told the school board last week.

Nice try, Mr. Superintendent, but someone in your district made a conscious choice, either out of homophobia or technological ignorance.

And an interesting choice  at that. Auctions - allowed. Computer game sites - allowed. LGBT - banned.

Let's see, which site is students more likely to turn to for valid educational reasons, ebay or PFLAG?

ENA certainly helped steer officials toward that decision with an inflammatory description on its LGBT category: "Sites that provide information regarding, support, promote, or cater to one's sexual orientation or gender identity including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender sites."

Oh, where to begin.

First of all, how does one "promote" one's sexual orientation? Is Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network promoting an orientation by providing information about how to stop bullying and encouraging people to get involved in public policy by supporting the Safe Schools Act?

I'm sure in the minds of some that's "promoting an orientation," but those are the same types who accuse me of trying to force others to "commit murder" because I think the "conscience clause" had gone too far.

Second, why is LGBT a separate filter category anyway? If officials want to block access to pornography, there's already a filter for that. If they're concerned about students looking for dates on school time, there's already a filter for personals sites as well.

All of which means there's no logical reason that LGBT sites couldn't have been included in the political/activist group filter from the start - a filter that neither Tennessee nor Indiana chose to implement, by the way.

There are plenty of illogical reasons, though, and they're all ugly or ignorant or both.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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