Knox, Nashville schools sued over blocking gay info online

Knox, Nashville schools sued over blocking gay info online

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NASHVILLE (WATE) -- The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Tennessee sued the Knox County and Nashville school districts in federal court Tuesday for blocking students' online access to information on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.

The ACLU filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee against Knox County Schools and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

It's filed on behalf of:

  • Knoxville - Bryanna Shelton - a student at Fulton High
  • Knoxville - Karyn Storts-Brinks - Librarian at Fulton High who's the advisor of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance
  • Nashville - Keila Franks and Emily Logan - high school students

According to the ACLU, Knox County Schools, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, and as many as 105 other school districts in Tennessee use Internet filtering software to block sites containing pro-LGBT speech.

The ACLU contends that Web sites dealing with "reparative therapy" and "ex-gay" ministries which condemn homosexuality aren't blocked.

The ACLU says some of the sites blocked by schools Internet filtering software include many well-known national LGBT organizations:

  • Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
  • The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
  • Marriage Equality USA
  • Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry
  • The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
  • Dignity USA (an organization for LGBT Catholics) 

The issue began in Knoxville when Central High School senior Andrew Emitt, 17, was looking for college scholarships. "I just want people to have access to information," Emitt told 6 News in April.

Emitt wrote a letter to the ACLU about what he'd found.

Knox County Law Director Bill Lockett, who's representing the school system in this matter, says he can't comment on pending litigation and hasn't had time to review it with school officials.

The spokesman for Knox County Schools, Russ Oaks, says, "As a matter of practice, we don't discuss open litigation."

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