On February 27, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused Governor Mifflin School District of blocking Internet content about gays.
The ACLU said the school district uses Internet filtering software that blocks sites that a student tried to access for research. Junior Maison Fioravante, the student who was blocked from accessing the sites, started a petition that drew 3,200 signatures, the ACLU said. He also managed to catch the attention of the ACLU in this matter.
According to the ACLU, the Berks County school district’s “sexuality” filter blocks sites that support the gay-rights movement while an “intolerance” filter blocks a range of political advocacy sites, including ones that oppose legal protection for gays.
The ACLU claims the filters violate the students’ free speech rights. Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania stated,
“Being able to access information on the Internet at the school library is not only critical for academic purposes, it can also be a lifeline for students in crisis who don’t feel safe seeking support on their home computers. Blocking these sites not only violates the First Amendment, but it does a disservice to students trying to learn about themselves and the world around them.”
The ACLU has sent a letter to Governor Mifflin asking them to reconfigure the filtering software.
A district spokesperson could not be reached for a comment.
In academia it is important to have more than one side to an issue; however, with the academic sites on certain subject matter comes pornography and hate speech. These filters are designed to protect students from viewing inappropriate material. These filters are not perfect and while they may weed out the inappropriate sites, they obviously also weed out the pertinent sites.
Some residents wonder if the ACLU has blown the situation out of proportion or if they are right to bring this matter to the school district’s attention.