ACLU responds to Alliance Defense Fund’s claims it is ‘bullying’ Gwinnett schools

The ACLU issued a response this afternoon in response to the Alliance Defense Fund’s letter to the superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools superintendent urging the school system not to lift LGBT filters from the system’s websites.

In the ADF letter sent via email on Aug. 1 to Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, the Christian organization with the mission of upholding “traditional family values” stated removing the filters would “allow sites such as, where a woman’s naked torso is fondled by three hands;, which advertises a see-through boxer for men; and, where students would see an image of two naked men apparently engaged in a sex act.”

“School districts shouldn’t be bullied into exposing students to sexually explicit materials,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman in a statement. “This latest scare tactic — under the façade of illegal censorship — is just another act of intimidation designed to forward the ACLU’s radical sexual agenda for children.”

The ACLU’s response, released today, states the ADF is wrong in that the filter of “LGBT” websites from the school system’s computers would only include non-sexual websites.

“The ‘LGBT’ web filter was specifically designed by the software company Blue Coat Systems to identify websites related to sexual orientation or gender identity that are not sexually explicit or pornographic, including the Human Rights Campaign, GSA Network, and the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the It Gets Better Project and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (‘PFLAG),” according to the ACLU.

“The ADF claimed that, despite the fact that the ‘LGBT’ category is designed to identify non-sexual websites, removing the LGBT filter would allows access to sexually-explicit sites and nudity.”

Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said the ADF is making false allegations.

“Anyone can understand the difference between pornography and websites like the It Gets Better Project or PFLAG, which provide critical information and support for LGBT students,” Block said in a statement.

“The websites identified by ADF should have been placed in Blue Coat’s categories for adult or mature content, which are designed to block all sexual content regardless of whether it is straight or LGBT. The fact that these websites have been inadvertently placed in the non-sexual ‘LGBT’ category only underscores the problems that can occur when a company tries to create a special category for issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity in the first place,” Block added.

“The ultimate solution to the problem is for schools to use viewpoint-neutral filtering software that does not select websites out for special treatment simply because they support LGBT people.”

The ACLU sent a letter to Wilbanks on May 23 asking the system to remove the LGBT filters so students could access such websites as the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG and the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition.

“Allowing students equal access to LGBT-related websites is not just a legal duty; it also makes sense from a safety perspective, particularly in light of the epidemic of LGBT youth suicides and bullying,” states the ACLU of Georgia’s May 28 letter.

“Prohibiting access to LGBT websites is especially problematic because many students do not have computers or internet access at home and can access the internet only at school. We wish to emphasize that unblocking individual LGBT-related websites upon request is not an appropriate solution to this problem,” the letter continues.

Gwinnett County School System spokesperson Sloan Roach said today that the system is still reviewing its filtering process and software.

“We do not want to restrict anyone to public websites but at the same time we have no intention of opening up inappropriate content to students,” she said.