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ACLU of Eastern Missouri: Camdenton R-III Had Other Options

10 Years Ago

When Federal Judge Laughrey handed down her decision against the Camdenton R-III School District last Wednesday, February 15th, it didn’t have to be that way.

“Before we sued them we wrote them a letter,” Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, told me this Wednesday.  The letter, sent across the country, suggested that the Camdenton school District, among others, change its online filtering practices because of viewpoint discrimination, and avoid any legal action. Mr. Rothert tells me, “All the other schools went, ‘Oh!  what can we do to fix it?’”

Camdenton R-III School District was the only District in the nation that didn’t respond positively to the ACLU’s call for equality in high school internet filtering.  “This is THE case in the country addressing this issue,” says Mr. Rothert.  “In a way, they’ve done something good.”

Mr. Rothert freely admits, “A couple of days before the ruling came down, they unblocked many of the sites that we pointed out that should not have been blocked.”  But he says that isn’t the actual issue at hand.  The main issue the ACLU has with Camdenton R-III School District is the program used to block the sites in the first place.  Camdenton R-III uses URL Blacklist, based in England, to manage its online filter, who responded to the outcry of inequality with an update to their software and a press release on their web site.  But not good enough, says Mr. Rothert, “There are other sites that continue to be blocked that shouldn’t be blocked.”  MOREnet, the internet service provider for many school districts in Missouri, uses netsweeper, and“there was a problem with the default settings on that,” he adds. “But we were able to work that out and that took care of about 70 school districts just in this state.”

But in Camdenton, the case is still ongoing. Judge Laughrey’s issue is only a temporary ruling, and the ACLU is preparing for the next court date in October. “We’re putting together a case as is necessary.  We’ll go back and see the Judge, and explain why her preliminary injunction should be made permanent,” assures Mr. Rothert.  Although its best to be prepared for anything, he says, “we feel very confident the evidence that we’ve gathered in discovery only strengthens the case that we were able to present at the preliminary injunction hearing.”

But working together always works better than working against each other.  The ACLU and the school District of Camdenton R-III can find a way to bring the case to an end “based on the Judge’s ruling.” Mr. Rothert trusts cooperation will win over discrimination. “Both sides are working to try to make that happen in the next couple of weeks,” says the legal director.  “We’re very hopeful that this actually will be the end of it.”  The end for some, the beginning for others.  Whether its changing internet filter providers, or being equal in the first place, there is always another way.

© 2012 Plucky Magazine

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