The Camdenton School District has 30 days to modify its internet-filter software
The Camdenton R-III School District has 30 days to discontinue or reconfigure its current internet-filter software after a Missouri federal judge granted a preliminary injunction filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several pro-LGBT organizations.
Judge Nanette Laughrey sided with the ACLU on a number of grounds saying the district's filtering software discriminated against websites supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
The district's filtering software is based off a URL Blacklist categorized into different topics, such as religion, entertainment, porn and sexuality.
The ACLU argued that the school's software systematically targeted and discriminated against pro-LGBT websites by categorizing it under the "sexuality" category, which is blocked. However, websites expressing a negative opinion toward LGBT were most commonly categorized under "religion" and left open for students to view.
Laughrey said in her judgment that Camdenton's continued use of URL Blacklist, "which does not effectively block content prohibited by (the Children's Internet Protection Act), suggests an ulterior motive."
Records show direct evidence that Camdenton intended to discriminate based on viewpoint despite letters from the ACLU explaining the district was discriminating and violating First Amendment rights.
School board member John Beckett expressed "concern with students accessing websites saying it's okay to be gay," and was also quoted during a special school board meeting as saying, "the amended policy may not have gone far enough."
At that particular special meeting, dozens of parents and other taxpayers attended to express their views that the school board should fight the lawsuit. Board members at that meeting agreed to an amendment of policies outlining procedures to block websites. An earlier special meeting set out new internet policies and the process of unblocking websites.
Despite both procedures, the court found that the simple act of blocking the pro-LGBT websites stigmatized them and students may not follow the procedures because their request may be made public. "...The stigmatizing effect of condemning an idea by limiting access to it is more significant that the actual limitation of access."
The Camdenton School District responded to the injunction in a news release issued Thursday.
"The district is disappointed by the judge's order and is working with its attorneys to consider its options," the release states. "The district's frustration stems in part from the fact that recent developments in the case did not appear to be considered by the judge in her order."
The release sites that URL Blacklist fixed a "script error" which unblocked non-sexual LGBT supportive websites which had been previously filtered. The district also ran several updates and rebooted its servers activating the changes. Because of the upgrades, the district felt the civil suit was now moot and should have been dismissed.
The release ended with, "The district stands by its position that it has acted in the best interest of its students and will continue to do so. The district does not discriminate or tolerate discrimination against any of its students and supports the rights of its students to receive information."