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A "Don't Tread on Me," flag flies above the American flag in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 6, 2011, during an Americans for Prosperity "Cut Spending Now" rally. / File photo by Alex Brandon, AP

A Connecticut student graduated Saturday wondering why his high school's computer firewall blocked access to websites promoting causes popular among Republicans and conservatives.

Andrew Lampart of Woodbury asked the local board of education last week to explain why he couldn't access websites such as ctgop.org, teaparty.org and those of right-to-life and gun-rights advocates.

Lampart, 18, says such sites were blocked when he tried to access them on his tablet and a Nonnewaug High School computer, while websites with opposing views - including ctdems.org, plannedparenthood.org and banhandgunsnow.org - weren't blocked.

Lampart says it's "counterproductive" for a school district to block "politically oriented websites" and questions whether other districts throughout the country have similar policies.

"Public education is designed to spark students' curiosity in the world around them," he says. "The job of the educator, especially in the United States, is to produce freethinkers - not graduates who are told what to think and what to say."

In a written statement, Regional School District No. 14, which represents the towns of Woodbury and Bethlehem, says "it is obviously critical to block specific categories of websites as required by law," including pornographic sites. But "the blocking of otherwise appropriate websites, regardless of political or religious viewpoints, is wrong."

The statement, signed by board of education Chair John Chapman and Vice Chair Maryanne Van Aken, directs Nonnewaug High School's principal and director of technology to establish "an expedited process" to unblock "appropriate sites.''

Regional School District 14 uses the same software - Dell's SonicWALL - as many other Connecticut school districts, the statement says.

Lampart says a school district official told him that a "politics/activism" filter was put in place to prevent hate speech from finding its way into the schools.

Chapman says some categories of websites were blocked because of "how the parameters were set in the filtering criteria, and we are confident it has been remedied."

Jody Goeler, the school district's superintendent, says "unintended filtering" occurred.

The district's technology committee "does not look at allowing or blocking specific sites," she says. "Nobody has that job."

The school district doesn't have "the time or interest in searching out individual sites or even specific patterns of sites," Goeler says.

Chapman says "the board of education appreciates that this situation was brought to our attention" by Lampart.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Conn. student: Conservative websites blocked by school

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