The Second Amendment Foundation is vowing “prompt legal action” following reports yesterday that a Connecticut school district’s filtering system was blocking access to websites belonging to firearms rights advocacy groups, while allowing access to gun control organizations in what appears to be a clear violation of the First Amendment.
In a blunt letter to Superintendent Jody Ian Goeler at Connecticut’s Regional School District 14, SAF General Counsel Miko Tempski warned, “Once a school chooses to provide internet access, the First Amendment prohibits it from selectively censoring access to websites based on their particular viewpoints.”
“Regardless of the District’s intent in this matter,” Tempski added, “you are violating the Constitutional rights of your students and many organizations by allowing this filtering system to remain in place. If you allow the District’s censorship to continue, you could be subject to legal liability and the expense of litigation.”
In addition to SAF, the National Rifle Association’s website was also reportedly blocked. Also, the state Republican Party’s website was blocked, but not so for the state Democrat Party. Access was also blocked from Christianity.com and the Vatican's website, but not Islam-guide.com, according to Fox News.
Connecticut school officials seemed intent on doing the kind of bureaucratic investigation that lasts until an issue falls off the public’s radar screen. That changed when the student who discovered this one-sided filtering, Andrew Lampart, spoke to his district’s school board, and the story surfaced on Fox News. He also appeared Friday morning on Fox and Friends, the cable network’s morning news-talk program.
Lampart told a reporter that he first brought the problem to the attention of the school’s principal, who “referred him to the superintendent.” Lampart reportedly took the issue to Goeler, who apparently promised to “look into the matter.” After a week, when nothing had been changed, Lampart went to the school board.
That this was uncovered because a student needed to prepare for a school debate project is unsettling. Had Lampart not been doing his assignment, this website filtering might have gone undetected.
In an open letter dated yesterday, Supt. Goeler told school district residents that the district has contacted the filtering service provider, Dell SonicWall. “Once we receive a statement from Dell SonicWall clarifying its process for assigning websites to categories,” Goeler promised to post that information on the school district’s website.
This didn’t satisfy Tempski, who told Goeler in his letter, “Your public response to this offensive censorship has been to call for clarification from your subcontractor and to point out that teachers can selectively unblock some content. This response is insufficient as it allows the District’s Constitutional violations to continue while you investigate.”
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb called the revelation “an outrage.” He noted that the district had allowed access to websites for the Michael Bloomberg-funded Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and the anti-gun Newtown Action Alliance.
Examiner will be interviewing Lampart later today and will publish an update. He is preparing for graduation ceremonies from Nonnewaug High School, and Gottlieb acknowledged that any actions to correct this situation will not help him.
“But we’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen to other students,” Gottlieb said in a press release Friday morning.