Camdenton School District's attorney's claim he and the district will fight to the end against a federal lawsuit filed by several pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered groups and a high school student has been settled.
The district issued a news release on Thursday informing the public of the settlement.
"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 news release communicates. "The District succeeded in this endeavor and is glad that this case has been resolved."
The settlement requires the Camdenton School District to fix their filter to unblock non-sexual LGBT-supportive websites, which they claim they have. As an act of reassurance, the district has to submit quarterly reports of filtered websites for the next 18 months. Those reports will be sent to a retired superintendent who will distribute them to the attorneys involved in the case.
The district is also required to pay $125,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union to cover a portion of its attorney fees for the federal lawsuit that lasted around eight months.
"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," the news release states.
Anthony E. Rothert, the legal director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, said the consent agreement reached was definitely in favor of the ACLU.
"This is definitely a success," Rothert said. "(The school district) is agreeing to do what we asked them to do originally, before the suit was filed."
"If they had agreed to do this in the beginning, we could have avoided all of this," Rothert added.
In February 2012, URL Blacklist, the company the district based its custom Internet filter off of, fixed a "script error", according to the news release and previous court documents. The fix unblocked non-sexual LGBT-supportive websites, which had been previously blocked under URL Blacklist's "sexuality" filter. The district updated its software due to the changes and hundreds of non-sexual websites were unblocked on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Later, Missouri Western District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey's order allowed the Camdenton School District to continuing using its custom filtering software.
"With these factors in mind, the District decided to resolve the case," the news release informs.
The Board of Education voted to settle the lawsuit at a meeting on Tuesday, March 27.
At a special Board of Education meeting held on Wednesday, Sept. 7, the district's attorney Thomas Mickes told the large crowd of parents and citizens in attendance that he intended to fight to the end.
Page 2 of 2 - "There's no rollover in this board and there's no rollover in me," Mickes said
The lawsuit had stirred parents and citizens alike from the time it was first filed in August 2011, especially after an unnamed Camdenton High School student joined the suit on ACLU's side. A large crowd had gathered at that special meeting voicing their opinions and hopes that the district should do everything it could to win.
According to court documents, the unidentified student provided personal accounts of bullying and prejudice based on sexuality within the district. When the student attempted to research useful anti-bullying information in the school's library's computer, many websites were blocked, deterring her from any further attempts to search. She also did not ask district officials to unblock the websites because, despite the district's policy of anonymous requests, she felt the policy wasn't truly anonymous. Mostly, she feared repercussions from district staff and students if word got out that she asked for a pro-LGBT website to be accessible, even it if was information providing resources to combat bullying in schools.
The ACLU has backed the federal lawsuit from the beginning offering legal support to Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc. (PFLAG); Dignity, Inc. of DignityUSA; the Matthew Shepard Foundation; Campus Pride, Inc.; and Jane Doe, the unidentified Camdenton High School student. The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the school district in August 2011 after findings of the "Don't Filter Me" campaign were released. The ACLU felt Camdenton's custom-built Internet filtering software was unconstitutionally restrictive and was censored based on viewpoint. An example the ACLU used in court documents was students could access the GOP's website, but not GOProud, a website targeted at LGBT people with a conservative political viewpoint.