Students in southern Florida can freely access “gay-supportive” websites, thanks to pressure from the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Palm Beach County School District previously blocked student and teacher access to several gay-friendly sites such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network-with “Sexuality/Alternative Lifestyles” popping up on screens when users attempted to visit them.

At the same time, students and teachers had full access to anti-gay websites run by organisations such as the American Family Association.

After months of appeals and legal pressure by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, the school district removed the pop-ups and once again allowed access to the sites.

“It’s great that [students and faculty members] can get reliable researched information,” Michael Woods, a teacher at Forest Hill High School in West Palm Beach, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week.

According to Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, the school district was using an overbroad filtering system, from Blue Coat Systems Inc., which blocked millions of websites deemed inappropriate.

Added Bob LaRocca, the district’s director of information technology security, “we’re trying to protect the kids” by restricting access to any websites that link to words and pictures associated with gambling, sex and racism, among others. Popular sites featuring chat rooms and free e-mail also are not accessible on district computers, LaRocca told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

© 2006 GayBusinessWorld.com; All Rights Reserved.