KATY, Texas — Katy ISD is reversing course and allowing access to LGBTQ+ internet resources that were previously filtered out.
The change comes after a former student and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a First Amendment complaint.
The student has since graduated and is in college, but says the decision should not have taken this long.
“This began by speaking at a school board meeting in November last year," said former Katy ISD student Cameron Samuels.
Samuels led the charge to get Katy ISD to expand the scope of accessible websites for LGBTQ+ individuals in Katy schools.
“When students try to access vital resources and affirming content on the internet for their queer identities and they see that these resources are blocked by a district policy, that sends a clear message that they are not seen as valid," Samuels said.
"After years of denied access to vital resources... like the Trevor Project, students at the district's nine high schools can now visit websites previously blocked by a discriminatory 'Human Sexuality' filter," the ACLU said.
“Many of these websites are really providing critical anti-bullying, and suicide prevention resources," said ACLU staff lawyer Brian Klosterboer.
Katy ISD responded by saying content is filtered through a third-party vendor.
"The District routinely assesses filtering practices, as well as responds to requests from individuals and organizations to review sites. At times, sites that may have been previously inaccessible due to Children's Internet Protection Act concerns," the district said.
“As a government entity, they cannot try to stamp out certain ideas and they certainly can’t censor the very existence of LGBTQ students,” Kloesterboer said.
Samuels calls the attempts to limit LGBTQ+ content an overt violation of the First Amendment.
“These websites didn’t have adult content but were being accused of that and were being blocked because the district felt like this was not something that students should be able to access," he said.
The district says its goal, "Is to support the learning, safety and well-being of all children. Parents and students are always encouraged to contact their campus or district leadership with questions or concerns about content accessibility."
The district only adjusted content filtering for high school students in Katy ISD.
Katy ISD's full statement on the situation can be read below:
"Katy ISD is committed to providing safe learning environments to all students, both in the classroom and online. Internet content across Katy ISD grade levels is filtered through adult content filters by a third-party vendor to ensure compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Additionally, the District routinely assesses filtering practices, as well as responds to requests from individuals and organizations to review sites. At times, sites that may have been previously inaccessible due to CIPA concerns may be made re-available due to modifications made by the site owner or internal adjustments that allow the District to address problematic areas on the site, such as chat rooms that may be open to both minors and adults — something that is incompliant with CIPA guidance. Our goal as a District is to support the learning, safety, and well-being of all children. Parents and students are always encouraged to contact their campus or District leadership with questions or concerns about content accessibility."