HOUSTON, Texas — The Montrose Center is a landmark LGBTQ institution in Houston.
"We provide a lot of needed services to the community,” said spokesperson Austin Ruiz.
It never expected to be caught up in a Katy ISD controversy.
"When we first found out that our website, the Montrose Center’s website, was blocked we were really perplexed," said Ruiz. "Because we are a social services organization.”
The Montrose Center’s website, and a number of other LGBTQ-related sites, are currently inaccessible to students using district internet.
"Discrimination and censorship is not our legacy,” said Seven Lakes High School student Cameron Samuels during Monday night’s board meeting.
More than a thousand people have also signed an online petition seeking, among other things, changes to Katy ISD’s internet filters.
They're particularly concerned about websites like The Trevor Project that offer suicide prevention and other resources to LGBTQ youth.
"When a student is on the verge of committing suicide, having access to resources and a suicide lifeline like the Trevor Project is a matter of life or death," said Samuels.
Katy ISD said content made available to students during the instructional day is filtered by a third-party school-based platform that ensures compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act.
Hyperlinks within websites, like chat rooms, may be responsible for issues.
The district’s technology department is now reviewing a number of sites including that of The Montrose Center.
“I think it is a good thing that the district is reviewing the websites," said Ruiz. "I mean, there’s always the ability to make exceptions.”
Katy ISD does offer suicide prevention and other resources on its website.
Here's the district's full statement regarding this controversy:
The District provides a variety of communications and technology resources that are consistent with its educational goals and align with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Because there are billions of websites housed on the world wide web, content that is made available to students during the instructional day, is reviewed and filtered by a third-party school-based platform that ensures CIPA compliance. The filtering process accounts for all material that may be found on a website, including hyperlinks to external content such as electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communication — spaces often occupied by both minors and adults, and discouraged by CIPA. The District’s responsible use guidelines for student technology can be found here.