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Access to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Web sites was recently granted for teachers and students in every public school in Harford County.

After a request was made by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on behalf of numerous teachers and students, Harford County Public Schools agreed to allow access to those Web sites, called LGBT, that were previously blocked.

Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the school system does not want students to access any Web sites that are pornographic in nature, and it was unclear what the LGBT filter blocked and did not block.

The board of education’s lawyer reviewed the decision to block the LGBT Web sites and, based on educational policy, it was decided to remove that filter, according to Kranefeld.

In January, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, or ACLU, sent a letter to the school system requesting the Internet filtering category LGBT be unblocked so students and teachers could access, on school computers, political and educational information about LGBT issues, according to a press release from ACLU.

Harford County Public Schools uses a filtering device called Blue Coat, which gives the school system the option of blocking access to various categories of information.

Blue Coat describes the LGBT category as “sites that provide information regarding, support, promote, or cater to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity including but not limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sites. The category does not include Web sites that are sexually gratuitous in nature which would typically fall under the Pornography category,” according to the ACLU’s press release.

The filter, according to ACLU, blocked access to many well-known state and national LGBT organizations, as well as various religious organizations supportive of gay rights.

Some of those Web sites include Equality Maryland; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN; Human Rights Campaign, or HRC; the Interfaith Working Group; Dignity USA; and Jewish Mosaic.

“Public schools — and especially school libraries — are supposed to be places where students can gain access to information on all the important topics of today and tomorrow,” Lauren Rogers, a 2009 Havre de Grace graduate who encountered difficulties with schoolwork because of the filtering, said in the ACLU press release. “We, as future leaders, want to be able to understand these issues, how people are impacted by them and the different arguments on both sides. We want to be able to make well-informed decisions.”

Rogers, along with other students, founded Equality Warriors, an LGBT-friendly student group at Havre de Grace High School.

In the past, teachers and students, including a student Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, at Bel Air High School, have requested Web sites supportive of gay rights be unblocked for school projects and assignments, but their requests have been denied, according to the press release.

The Maryland American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit organization, “works to ensure that all people in the state of Maryland are free to think and speak as they choose and can lead their lives free from discrimination and unwarranted government intrusion.” according to its Web site, www.aclu-md.org.


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