March 25, 2010 | by Steve Charing
Md. school district restores access to gay web sites

A school district in northeast Maryland has stopped blocking student access to LGBT-related web sites.

Two months after the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland challenged Harford County Public Schools on the issue, students and others thanked district leaders for taking the “positive step.”

“This is a positive step toward inclusiveness in HCPS policy,” says a March 19 letter addressed to Robert Tomback, the district’s superintendent, and Mark Wolkow, who leads the district’s board of education. Several students, parents, teachers and attorneys signed the letter.

“We have brought together a group of concerned HCPS students, parents, teachers and alumnae to continue to brainstorm how we can work with you and to make our school system a safer and more supportive place for our LGBT and allied community members.”

A filter had prevented students from accessing many well-known state and national LGBT groups, including the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, as well as various religious organizations that are supportive of gay rights. The filter did not impede student access to sites that condemn homosexuality.

“One of the problems with Harford’s filtering scheme is that it only allowed students access to information on one side of the public debate on LGBT issues,” said Alli Harper of Baltimore’s Brown, Goldstein & Levy law firm, which cooperated with the ACLU on the issue.

Harper said that one female student was blocked from researching a paper “arguing the ‘pro’ side of the marriage equality issue. She had to get an extension to do the assignment outside of school. Meanwhile, the students making the ‘con’ argument were able to access the information needed via the school computers.”

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