(No. 3:09-cv-00446, U.S. District Court Middle District Tennessee, Judge William J. Haynes)
Plaintiffs: Keila Franks, by and through her next friend and mother Pamela Auble; Bryanna Shelton, by and through her next friend and mother Angie Wright; Emily Logan, by and through her next friend and father, Andy Logan; and Karyn Storts-Brinks
Defendants: Metro Board of Public Education (Nashville), Dr. Jesse Register, Director of Schools (Nashville), Knoxville Board of Education (Knoxville), Dr. James McIntrye, Director of Schools (Knoxville)
Intervenor Defendant: June Griffin
In February 2009, ACLU-TN was alerted by multiple students and faculty members from across Tennessee that Knox County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools were using web filtering software that blocked student access to the websites of many well-known national LGBT organizations, including PFLAG, GLSEN and HRC. While access to websites containing pro-LGBT language was blocked by the filtering software, students were still able to reach anti-gay sites, including websites that urge LGBT people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay” ministries. ACLU-TN ultimately discovered that 105 other Tennessee school districts were also using the software.
Allowing access to websites that present one side of an issue while blocking sites that present the other side is unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, violating students’ and faculty’s First Amendment rights.
Following multiple unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issue without litigation, ACLU-TN and the national ACLU filed a lawsuit on May 19, 2009 demanding that Knox County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools stop blocking student access to online information about LGBT issues. Shortly thereafter, the school districts lifted the filtering category and opened access to all informational LGBT websites.
ACLU-TN was able to enter into a settlement agreement with the school board defendants which provided for 1) notice to ACLU-TN if ever they decide to change their policy and modify this blocking scheme and 2) continued jurisdiction with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to enforce the terms of the agreement.
The case against the school board defendants was voluntarily dismissed on August 12, 2009.