Essay about CIPA-Mandated Filters on School Computers

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It seems unlikely that there is a school librarian out there who has not encountered a problem with--or railed against--the presence of CIPA-mandated filters on school computers. My own career so far has allowed me to experience a full range of experiences with school computers, from a filterless library to an overfiltering situation so egregious that my journey to have it resolved culminated in suing the school district that employs me—Knox County, Tennessee. I just discovered, in fact, that a Google search for “internet filtering in schools” lists the ACLU litigation for which I was a plaintiff, Franks v. Metropolitan Board of Public Education, as its second hit.

This journey toward resolution was a long one that began many months before I thought it would ever be necessary to engage the services of civil rights attorneys. I first became aware of websites that seemed inappropriately blocked by our filtering system, Education Networks of America (ENA), in the course of helping students in the library of Fulton High School with persuasive essays on contemporary topics. This discovery was underscored by my additional role as the faculty sponsor of Fulton High’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), since the blocked sites that initially concerned me were those of the Human Rights Campaign ( and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network ( Of note is the fact that GLSEN is an organization that is fully endorsed by the National Education Association; their site has been listed in NEA Today magazine as a resource for promoting safe schools (citation needed?).

Since I couldn’t imagine that these sites, upon review, would continue to be blocked (yes, I know; the more stories of censorship I hear the more I...

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... I am extremely proud of myself and Ms. Brinks; my peers and myself can now have unlimited access to LGBT websites and I can have the pride in knowing I was a part of it.”

Bryanna’s feelings mirror my own in that not only am I very proud of her and of the scope of what was accomplished, but also about none of it being “hard”. Convoluted, yes. A long, long circuitous path through bureaucracy, yes. But also the best, and most obvious, thing that I have ever done. Access to information is my job description; there was no question in my mind of seeing it through to the end, whatever that was going to take. And the positive repercussions have been vast and ongoing: I have had wonderful opportunities and experiences among an ever-widening network of amazing freedom-fighting librarians and others who know more than they would like to about challenging censorship.

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