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ACLU says school's web filter violates free speech rights

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Feb 27 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 28 2013 05:48:08 AM CST

ACLU says school's web filter violates free speech rights

SHILLINGTON, Pa. -

There's a fight over free speech brewing in the Governor Mifflin School District. A student said computers at school block out websites related to sexuality.

The American Civil Liberties Union took notice.

"Marry for love not gender," Governor Mifflin junior Maison Fioravante read a poster she created for her digital studio arts 2 class, "Please visit HRC.org or GLSEN.org."
When Maison tried to go to many web sites like the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network for research at school, she couldn't.

"When I started to google at school about this information there would be a smooth wall block saying we couldn't access this because of the sexuality filter," said Maison Fioravante.

She asked her teacher for help and was given special permission.

"There shouldn't be exceptions because I want us all be equal," said Fioravante. So, she started an online petition on Change.org.

"I thought about the other kids. What if they're questioning who they are or what if they're just curious about the community," said Fioravante, "And they want to know something why can't they access this at school, where they're suppose to feel safe and they're supposed to learn."

After thousands of signatures, the American Civil Liberties Union contacted her about her first amendment free speech rights.

"Working with the ACLU, I got tons of screen shots of all these different web sites ones that are blocked and ones that aren't blocked. And that's how we ended up putting everything together and sending a letter to the school," said Fioravante.

Fioravante said she doesn't know how long it will take Mifflin to change its internet filters. The ACLU is requesting a response to its letter to the school district by March 14th.

"We have to see how the school plays out if they want to keep the filter up," said Fioravante, "Then the ACLU on my behalf is going to sue the school."

The Mifflin school district referred this matter to its lawyer. The lawyer has not yet responded to WFMZ's request for comment.

"I'm trying to stay true to myself and try to help the other kids around me feel comfortable with who they are," said Fioravante.