The Camdenton School District and the American Civil Liberties Unon are settling a lawsuit over internet filtering, with the district agreeing to stop blocking access to websites dealing with gay, lesbian and transgender issues:
ACLU attorney Tony Rothert says the suit was filed last fall on behalf of a Camdenton High School student and organizations whose websites were being blocked by the school’s internet filters:
Rothert says he was surprised the district agreed to a settlement:
Under terms of the settlement, which must still be approved by a federal judge, the district will stop blocking LGBT websites, agrees to be monitored for 18 months and pay $125,000 in fines and court costs.
For its part, the Camdenton school district has issued this statement:
“On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, the Camdenton School District’s Board of Education voted to settle the case of PFLAG et al v. Camdenton School District et. al., in order to put the focus in the District back on providing the highest level of education possible to our students. Throughout this litigation, the intent of the District was to protect our students from disablement of the District’s “sexuality” internet filter, yet, while at the same time, allowing our students to access information. The District succeeded in this endeavor and is glad that this case has been resolved.
“On Wednesday, February 15, 2012, Judge Laughrey issued an Order granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and ordered the District to ensure that non-sexual LGBT- supportive websites were not blocked by the District’s internet filtering system. The Judge’s Order related to a hearing held in this matter in Jefferson City on October 27, 2011. The Judge’s Order did not reference or appear to consider information filed by the District on February 14, 2012, which informed the Court that the non-sexual LGBT supportive websites which were the focus of Plaintiffs’ Complaint were already open in the District due to an action taken by URL Blacklist, the Company that the District utilizes as a source for the base of its customized internet filtering system.
“Specifically, days before the Judge’s Order, URL Blacklist fixed a “script error” which unblocked non-sexual LGBT supportive websites which had been previously filtered under URL Blacklist’s “sexuality filter”. Accordingly, due to the change by URL Blacklist, the blacklisted categories on the District’s system were automatically updated based on changes made by URL Blacklist. On Tuesday, February 14, 2012, the District filed an amendment to their previously filed Motion to Dismiss, asking the Court to dismiss this case based on the fact that all of the websites listed in Plaintiffs’ Complaint were open to District students because of the change made by URL Blacklist. This information was not addressed by the Judge in her Order.
“While the District considered continuing this litigation or appealing the Judge’s Order, the websites which were the subject of the Complaint in this matter had already been opened in the District due to the change by URL Blacklist. Because those websites were not sexually explicit, and the District never had the intent to deny student access to information, the District decided not to challenge the action of the Court. Further, the Judge’s Order allowed the District to continue use of its customized filtering system and keep its “sexuality” filter in place which blocks sexually explicit websites from student access. With these factors in mind, the District decided to resolve the case. Due to the generous assistance of the District’s insurance company, the District’s Board of Education was only required to pay a small portion of the costs in order to resolve the case.
“Local and national attention has been focused on the District because of this case. However, what we know will continue to be true long after this case is over, is the fact that the Camdenton School District is a wonderful community where our students and alumni are accomplishing amazing things. The District is appreciative of the unending support of the community and the demonstrated resolve and dedication of its staff throughout this process and is looking forward to a successful end to the school year.”