Katy ISD blocking websites with critical resources for LGBTQ youth

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- An online petition created by the 'Students of KATYISD' group is demanding change to allow access to LGBTQ+ resources and websites, including a suicide prevention hotline.

Katy ISD student, 17-year-old Cameron Samuels, spoke out at a school board meeting last week and told ABC13 that students cannot access LGBTQ+ youth resources and websites while on the district's internet server.

This means even when students are on their personal phones on school grounds, if they search for sites such as - but not limited to - The Montrose Center, The Human Rights Campaign, and The Trevor Project, which is a 24/7 national suicide prevention hotline, a restriction notification pops up.

"Upon presumable reaction to our concerns, the category was recently changed to 'Human Sexuality' but it continues to block the same sites," Samuels said, addressing members of the school board regarding the district's internet portal restrictions.

Samuels is one of the hundreds of people who support an online petition that is demanding for the district to change its restrictions policy.

When ABC13 reached out to Katy ISD, a spokesperson responded the district is closed until Monday.

Hannah Dellinger, an education reporter at the Houston Chronicle, started investigating the students' claims and concerns several weeks ago. Dellinger told ABC13, a spokesperson with Katy ISD explained how the district's website restrictions are set.

"A spokesperson told us that websites are blocked based on predetermined filters that are set by a third-party source," Dellinger said. "They said those filters are meant to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act, which really only requires school districts to block obscene images or pornographic imagines, and not texts or ideas that are deemed controversial."

Kennedy Loftin, the chief development officer at the Montrose Center, said typically the center works with local school districts to explain the need for resources such as the center's HATCH youth program to help students. As a result, Loftin said several area school districts' internet portals do not have restrictions on the Montrose Center's online resources.

"I hope that this situation brings to light that school districts need to work a little harder to make the distinction between resources for their youth, and things that are detrimental for their youth," Loftin said. "The Montrose Center's program saves lives. A lot of the other sites that are LGBTQ, affirming with LGBTQ resources, provide life-saving information for youth and sometimes all they need is to know that there are other individuals out there and to get a little bit of help to get through a tough time."

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