Tennessee Schools Block Pro-Gay Websites

According to an article from website Wired, public High Schools in the Tennessee area are filtering out access to sites like the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and the Lesbian Straight Education Network, amongst many more, whilst allowing sites purporting to cure gays through their filter. Is this a clear breach of the First Amendment as one campaign group is claiming?

The debate over what is taught in public schools as regards to sexuality has always been a contentious one. One side argues that High School children should be taught frankly about all forms of sexuality when it comes to both heterosexual and LGBT relationships, whilst others, with a somewhat valid argument, might say that there is no place for sexuality in schools, be it homosexual or heterosexual, beyond the bounds of biology.

There are merits to both arguments and issues raised in the adoption of both as well. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the group who raised this issue about Knox County Schools, Metro Nashville and Tennessee Public schools censoring LGBT sites, are saying that, far from this being a problem about teaching sexuality, the schools are actively censoring against helpful recourses for adolescents who, through their own initiative, wish to find out about LGBT issues or find support, but, at the same time, those schools are allowing “reparative therapy” campaigns such as the Exodus program, through their internet filters, and, in so doing, the ACLU claim the schools are violating the First Amendment and acting in a clearly discriminatory manner.

The school districts have passed the buck, saying that it is the internet filtering company who, under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, are responsible for defining and then filtering “harmful” websites, whilst the company owning the internet filtering software, the Education Network of America (ENA) have said that blocking and unblocking websites is a ball firmly in the schools court, and that the ENA duly block or allow sites that are given to them for review by the schools, though, according to the ACLU, the ENA software provided to schools blocks LGBT themed websites by default (it categorizes LGBT adult sites under the pornography category and therefore the two are quite distinct).

On its website the ACLU claim that up to 107 Tennessee schools may be “illegally preventing students from accessing online information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues”.

“Students at Knox County and Metro Nashville schools are being denied access to content that is protected speech under the First Amendment as well as the Tennessee state constitution,” Staff Attorney Tricia Herzfield of the ACLU for the Tennessee district said.

The ACLU claim that it would not be so bad had the Tennessee school districts in question used a blanket approach to all things relating to LGBT issues on the internet, but as it is, they are offering up information on “gay-cures” that many health professionals find at best unsound, and at worst perhaps even dangerous.

The filter also restricts websites for same-sex marriage, even for faith based sites who find same-sex marriage acceptable, but does not block sites such as the American Family Association who actively campaign against same-sex marriage. This, the ACLU say, yet again gives students only one side of the story, and in so doing may harm a child’s education, and furthermore potentially violates the duty that the school districts have to offer school children, especially of High School age, a chance at an informed education.

Of course, there are those of a differing view-point. The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

One interpretation of the First Amendment against this issue could be that schools are free to filter as they please until a federal mandate expressly telling them not to filter against LGBT websites is issued, and that this is not a violation of the First Amendment at all because schools are not attributable to Congress (though they do, obviously, receive funding from Federal sources). 

However, the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1, states:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.

The filtering law in Tennessee (Tenn. Code § 49-1-221) requires that schools implement software to filter and restrict access to sites that are “obscene or harmful” to minors. It seems a bit of a stretch that, in a High School, sites such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD are restricted. One might argue that they should not be readily promoted, but to actively screen them seems spurious. Even if it isn’t a violation of the First Amendment as the ACLU are alleging in this letter to the Tennessee school districts in question, and, indeed, are threatening to sue over, it does seem that this filtering policy is, at the very least, arbitrary and discriminatory when coupled with the Fourteenth Amendment’s mandate.

Finally, to clarify the kind of material being blocked, the ACLU has a comment from a student at one of the school districts in question, Andrew Emmit of Central High School in Knoxville, aged 17: “When I found out about this web filtering software, I wasn’t looking for anything sexual or inappropriate – I was looking for information about scholarships for LGBT students, and I couldn’t get to it because of this.”

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Cambiodefractal.


Timm S.
Past Member 6 years ago

Homosexual Statistics


Timm S.
Past Member 6 years ago

"Umm.. I am totally drug free and I fucking love gay sex :D I love who I am, a Gay Transexual. I am proud that I am proud of me. "

Jeremy needs to get educated. You wild F____ing gay sex as you put it will eventually put you in the grave mark my words. It is not only perverted but will kill you. Have fun while you can but count the costs.

Timm S.
Past Member 6 years ago

"ust like a homosexual to tell others to get their heads out of their asses. Most of us do not put ANYTHING up our asses, that activity is reserved for homosexuals exclusively."

Right on Queen B we are now in a war of good vs evil. Queer = Evil and is slowly destroying society as we know it.

Chris C.
Chris C.7 years ago

...something else they can royally screw up.

Chris C.
Chris C.7 years ago

OK, lots of discussion but people seem to have forgotten the point of this article. Religion was taken out of schools because people didn't want their kids being indoctrinated with beliefs and morals that their parents may or may not totally agree with. It wasn't just about the separation of church and state. Although I highly believe that Christians viewpoints get zeroed in on, but that is another discussion. However, this concept is a double edged sword. Which means that you have to please the majority and not the minority. Until more than 50% of school aged children's parents are GBLT or activists for them then schools will not teach alternate lifestyles in any but the most cursory of manners. Besides, kids are gonna learn a lot of things from their peers whether we like it or not. Psychologists have proven that the very concept of society is learned from your peers. Kids will learn far more and more life affecting information from their peers than they ever will from a classroom. True, they may be ridiculed or singled out because of their viewpoints, but hey that's public school for you. It's generally miserable for everyone who isn't in the popular click whether you are GLBT or not.

From a biological standpoint, sex is purely about reproduction so I think that it should be left at that. Hell, we have to beat into our kids the fact that boy + girl = baby and we apparently can't get that point across. I really don't think we want the schools dabbling in

Queen B.
Charity B7 years ago

Just like a homosexual to tell others to get their heads out of their asses. Most of us do not put ANYTHING up our asses, that activity is reserved for homosexuals exclusively.

Jeremy C.
Jeremy C.7 years ago

Umm.. I am totally drug free and I fucking love gay sex :D I love who I am, a Gay Transexual. I am proud that I am proud of me. Open your mind to more than just what your great-grandparents passed down. Hell. There were many GLBT people in the past. The only reason you didn't hear about them earlier in your life is because you were never exposed to people who wern't afraid to tell you who they really are and it was much harder in the past for people to accept us. Saying you hate gays or it's propoganda is like saying something like 'Whites, or Blacks, or Asians, or Indonesians, or Australians or (just insert a race, culture here that's different from the race, culture that's predominant where you live) are fucking up our kids because they are proud about who they are. Even though they aren't all waving around signs and wearing shirts and shouting "We're here and we're ________" they MUST be 'proud' and 'infiltrating our chidrens minds with their propoganda! ZOMG! they're satan or something!'' Please. Get a grip on life. The 'homosexuals' condemned in your Bible weren't homosexuals at all. They were whores who were married and fucking around on their spouses with people of the same sex to prevent reproduction throught whoring the the opposite sex. And it was also a dominance thing on top of that. Pull your head out of your ass. These websites WON'T affect your child unless they are looking the sites up. I sure hope they find GLSEN or HRC before you get 'ahold' of them.

Queen B.
Charity B7 years ago


Queen B.
Charity B7 years ago

Charlene M, you are so right, please do not back down from your solid convictions. Millions of us agree with you. An elementary schoolchild should NEVER have to hear the words: homosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, alternative lifestyle. Children should not have to wonder if they are homosexual or even have the word explained to them. The radical gay agenda is "arrive by 5." That means they want children age 5 & younger to already be exposed to these sick, illicit sexual choices, & to believe them to be normal.

Childhood lasts about a dozen years. With the smut & sex that is continually beamed out of TV shows & movies, children grow up too fast already. I certainly do NOT want our children brainwashed, by public taxpayer-supported schools, that homosexuality is anything other than an abomination.

You are right that it is an addiction. Most of the people suffering from this addiction need drugs/alcohol to fuel their lust for what they know is socially unacceptable behavior. They need to get into an altered state of mind in order to complete the abnormal sexual behavior they seek. Look at the preacher Ted Haggard. He preached against homosexuality, then bought meth drugs & went on homosexual binge orgies while under the influence of meth. These type people could not look at themselves in a mirror or complete the sex act if they were not high on something. That is why they bribe pols to change laws in their favor. They seek normalcy but refuse to act

Jamie Kins
Jamie Owen7 years ago

My gosh... Charlene M. Where do I even begin? The school's "mission" is to educate people. Education includes learning about sexuality. Even if they don't learn about it in the classroom, they probably will in the real world.
And another thing, you make being homosexuality sound like an illness. It's not. Homosexuals are completely normal human beings besides the fact that they love differently. The gay "groups" as you label them have NOT gone too far. They are fighting for their freaking rights!
As for your son asking if he's gay.... it seems to me that everyone asks those questions.
Kids should not be sheltered by what's out there. I hate that they are starting to block gay supporting sites. Besides, teaching children about being gay won't make them gay. Even if they were, aren't you supposed to love them anyway?! The only reason there is so much gay hate is because people drag religion into EVERYTHING! Well you want to drag religion, I'll drag too! God loves everyone! If he loves everyone, that includes gays.
If you can say you love a serial killer and then turn around and insult a gay, your a freaking hipocrite.
I rest my case.