(Editor's Note: The article was first published Aug. 2, 2011.)
The Alliance Defense Fund is standing with Gwinnett County Public Schools in its fight against the ACLU, regarding so-called "LGBT" filters.
In an August 1 letter to superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) told the school district that it "should not bow to the ACLU's demand" to remove filters from its district Internet and computer systems. If GCPS does remove the filters, the ADF believes that some of the content that would become available would indeed be pornographic.
“School districts shouldn’t be bullied into exposing students to sexually explicit materials,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman in an audio statement posted to its website. “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.”
Earlier this summer, the ACLU sent a demand letter to the state's largest school district asking it to remove filters from its websites that block websites related to issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students. The filters, produced by software company Blue Coat, are "designed to discriminate against LGBT viewpoints and does not serve a legitimate pedagogical purpose," the ACLU stated in the May 23 letter.
The ACLU asserts that the filters trigger prohibition of LGBT related content, considering them sexually explicit or pornographic. But, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund said that's exactly why the filters should be left up -- to block sexually explicit images.
Specifically, if filters were removed, several images and content would immediately become available, the ADF said. Those explicit sites include, one suggesting multiple-partner relations for bisexual persons, and a gay dating tips site that shows a man in see-through boxers and gay sex tips.
"It goes without saying that our nation's public school districts should not permit minors access to this type of sexually inappropriate Internet content, " the ADF said in its letter.
Gwinnett County Public Schools were expected to contact the ACLU over the summer regarding its plans to remove the filters, but now the start of school is looming. As of August 1, the school district had not notified the civil liberities group of its plans to dismantle the Blue Coat filters, according to Chara Jackson, legal director for ACLU of Georgia.
"No update yet, but we anticipate some legal action soon," Jackson said Tuesday.
The district did respond to the media, however, saying that it does operate filters on its sites, but that students can request access to Internet content "for a legitimate instructional or work purpose they can make a request for that access."
Still, the ACLU said that students should not be forced to ask for permission every time they want to access an LGBT-related website. Having access to the sites "is not just a legal duty," the ACLU said in its May 23 letter. "It also makes sense from a safety perspective, particularly in light of the epidemic of LGBT youth suicides and bullying."
In its response to the contentious debate, the ADF said "a public school district's decisions regarding what web content to make available to students are curricular decisions" comes with wide span of authority.
Patch will provide updates to this story if needed.