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Some Sioux Falls students upset about Internet filter

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- An Internet filter used by the Sioux Falls School District carries a potentially harmful anti-LGBT bias, according to some students.

SIOUX FALLS (AP) - An Internet filter used by the Sioux Falls School District carries a potentially harmful anti-LGBT bias, according to some students.

Roosevelt High School senior Briggs Warren told the Argus Leader newspaper that students are barred from accessing some resource sites for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, such as such as "It Gets Better" and "GLADD," on district devices.

When students try to access such websites, a large exclamation point under bold read letters reading, "access denied," pops up on the screen.

"It's just being denied about who you are and that it's just not OK," said Tristen Bly, a sophomore at New Technology High School. "You feel like you don't belong."

At the same time, students are able to access sites conservative sites such as the Family Resource Council and Focus on the Family are accessible.

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Bly called the lack of access to LGBT sites "discriminatory."

"It would be very similar if you were to block a black rights movement website or any other type or major rights movement," Bly said.

The district uses school Internet filters from two companies, which sift through sites and divides them into categories, and then the district decides which categories to wholly or partially block, according to Bob Jensen, director of assessment, technology and information services for the district.

"Very rarely have we run across where there is a site that is blocked that shouldn't have been blocked," he said, adding that the district chooses to err on the side of caution.

ACLU of South Dakota Executive Director Heather Smith said the blocked sites send a message that being gay, bisexual or transgender is wrong or shameful.

Jensen said the district has unblocked some sites providing LGBT resources upon request.

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