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Media Release: School Communities Give Internet Filtering Law Failing Grade

Pics of San Francisco press conference below.

For Immediate Release: September 18, 2002


Will Doherty
Executive Director
Online Policy Group

School Communities Give Internet Filtering Law Failing Grade

Speak Out in San Francisco, New York, and Boston

San Francisco - School administrators, along with students, teachers, parents, and school librarians, in San Francisco, New York, and Boston will speak out today against federal mandates for Internet blocking or filtering software in public schools.

The Online Policy Group (OPG), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), and Youth Free Expression Network (YFEN), a project of the Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP), are sponsoring the press conferences along with local school community members.

School communities nationwide are urging repeal of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which requires public schools and libraries receiving certain federal funds or discounts to install a "technology protection measure" to block Internet access to materials that are "harmful to minors."

"In one of the more massive giveaways to a private industry in recent memory, CIPA requires the thousands of schools and libraries that receive federal aid or e-rate discounts for Internet connections to buy expensive filtering software," said FEPP Director Marjorie Heins. "It also turns over educational decisions about what students should read and learn to these private companies, which will not even reveal their lists of blocked sites."

"Rather than protecting children, CIPA diminishes educational opportunities for students nationwide by blocking tens of thousands of web pages related directly to the school curriculums developed after years of careful consideration and approved by educators and local and state school boards," said OPG Executive Director Will Doherty.

"Internet filtering in schools disproportionately impacts those schools that most need federal funds and discounts, while providing the fewest options for lower-income public school students who cannot find alternative access at home or at an unfiltered well-equipped local public library or private school," explained Stephanie Elizondo Griest of the Youth Free Expression Network. "CIPA deepens the digital divide and must be repealed or overturned before it damages a whole generation of American students."

EFF and OPG will announce preliminary results of a study demonstrating thousands of sites inappropriately blocked by two of the most widely used Internet filters based on topic searches of state-mandated school curriculums from three states.

ACLU and EFF will unveil action alerts directed at Congressional repeal of CIPA and at local school boards administering Internet blocking in schools.

Some schools in Eugene, OR, have decided to forego federal funding and discounts in order to refuse Internet filtering in their school district.

"Filtering is a technological solution to a social problem," said Les Moore, Director of Computing and Information Science at Eugene School District 4J. "It's better to teach responsible use and supervise, rather than giving parents a false sense of security."

A federal district court has already struck down a similar portion of the CIPA law that required libraries to install filters because the court found that filtering products unsuccessfully blocked access to materials that are harmful to minors while abridging the free speech of library patrons by overblocking constitutionally protected materials. The government has appealed the library decision to the Supreme Court. The schools portion of the CIPA law remains in force.

Press conferences will take place at the following times and locations:


Boston area--

Time: 2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT on September 18, 2002

Location: Bartos Auditorium, MIT Media Lab, 20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

Organizer: Dr. Rob Reilly


Phone: +1 617 253-0369 (office) or +1 413 329-1878 (cell)

Speakers (not final):

* Dr. Rob Reilly, Visiting Scientist, MIT Media Lab

* Ms. Jeanne Schultz, President, Massachusetts Elementary School Principal's Association

* Ms. Nancy Murray, Director, Bill of Rights Education Project, ACLU of Massachusetts

* Mr. Seth Finkelstein, Consultant (EFF Pioneer Award winner)

* Ms. Kathy Massimiano, Computer Education Teacher, Richmond (Mass.) Public School System

Directions to Press Conference:

via the 'T': take Red line to MIT/Kendall station, which is Main Street; walk north on Main Street (away from Boston); at the first corner (at the traffic light) is Ames Street is on the left; the MIT Media Lab is on the left (it's a bright white building); enter the building and go downstairs to Bartos Auditorium.


New York--

Time: 12:30pm - 1:30pm EDT on September 18, 2002

Location: Harlem Live, 301 W. 125th Street, Third Floor, New York, NY

Organizer: Stephanie Elizondo Griest


Phone: +1 212 807-6222 x17 (office), +1 650 784-5389 (cell), +1 212 222-4681 (Harlem Live during the conference only)

Speakers (not final):

* Danya Steele, Editor, Harlem Live

* Emma Rood, Sophomore, Simon's Rock College of Bard, and plaintiff in ACLU lawsuit against CIPA library provisions

* Ann Beeson, Litigation Director, ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program

* Marjorie Heins, Director, Free Expression Policy Project

* Statements from three high school teachers and a librarian


San Francisco--

Time: 12:00 Noon to 1:00 PM PST on September 18, 2002

Location: Mission High School, 3750 18th St. (sidewalk in front of building, between Church St. and Dolores St.), San Francisco, CA

Organizer: Will Doherty

Email: or

Phone: +1 415 436-9333 x111 (office) or +1 415 794-6064 (cell)

Speakers (not final, affiliations may be for id purposes only):

* Terry Lai, Parent and Librarian, Hoover Middle School, SF

* Dinah Shender, Student, Burlingame High School

* Anu Khosla, 7th Grade Student, Nueva School, Hillsboro, CA

* Ann Brick, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California

* Will Doherty, Executive Director, Online Policy Group, and Media Relations Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Statement from Debbie Abilock, Editor of Knowledge Quest, a journal that reaches about 10,000 school librarians


Press packets with a variety of informational materials will be available at the press conferences.

This media release available at

Action alert for Congressional repeal of CIPA:

Action alert for school boards:

Media advisory about upcoming Internet blocking research results:

Flash animation of students facing Internet blocking in schools:

AP article mentioning schools refusing Internet filtering in Eugene, OR:

About OPG:

The Online Policy Group (OPG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to online policy research, outreach, and action on issues such as access, privacy, and digital defamation. The organization fulfills its motto of "one Internet with equal access to all" through projects such as donation-based email list hosting, web hosting, domain registrations, and now colocation services. OPG focuses on Internet participants' civil liberties and human rights, like access, privacy, safety, and serving schools, libraries, disabled, elderly, youth, women, and sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities. Find out more at

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Pics of San Francisco Press Conference:

Mission High School Press Conference picture

Mission High School Press Conference picture

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