School and City News
by Charlotte Force
While researching at school for the "LGBTQ+ Oppression Around the World" project for last Friday's Global Conflict Awareness Day, my group came across something appalling: an innocuous website was blocked on the grounds that it contained "Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest".
At Global Conflict Awareness Day, our group collected 243 signatures from students attending the fair. We then expanded to the web through a change.org petition that has 118 supporters. The support has been strong, but needs to be bigger.
We want to send a letter to School Chancellor Farina and the Department of Education to make this change, and take a public stance against this policy. In order to make an impact, we need as many signatures as we can get! So, when you sign the petition - don't just stop there. Share it, and tell your friends!
The official New York City Department of Education Internet Acceptable Use and Safety Policy (IAUSP) exists under the larger umbrella of the Federal Communications Commission's Children's Internet Protect Act (CIPA). The DOE and FCC's policies both agree - they serve to protect children from content including "pornography, obscene material, and other material that may be harmful to minors. The Department may filter other content deemed to be inappropriate, lacking educational or work-related content or that pose a threat to the network" (DOE policy).
Information about LGBTQ+ rights, people, or culture does not fall into any of these qualifications. It is neither obscene, nor dangerous for minors. Therefore, this content blockage is a gross violation of students' rights to information and an example of the bigotry that fuels the anti-LGBTQ+ rights movement.
Beyond the invalidity of the blockage, the information about LGBTQ+ culture, rights, and resources could be invaluable to teens who cannot access that kind of information at home. The internet is a valuable resource, and teens struggling with their identity could find it invaluable to have access to information in a safe space such as school. The blocking of information is taking away that tool.
If New York City is going to take an actively pro-LGBTQ+ rights stance, it cannot do it half-heartedly - certainly, not at the expense of the city's students. The NYC Department of Education must repeal this ban and agree, once and for all, that the negative perception of the LGBTQ+ community is pure bigotry.