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Promoting Online Safety: The Home-School Partnership

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Groups File Suit to Block CIPA

The American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit March 20 to block the enforcement of the Children's Internet Protection Act, which would require schools and libraries that receive certain kinds of federal technology support to install a "technology protection measure."

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the groups contended the law was unconstitutional because it would force local libraries to restrict what patrons could choose to access. They also argued that the law would unconstitutionally restrict the access adults, in addition to children.

The law, which was passed in December 2000, specifies that if a particular section of the law is declared unconstitutional, the rest of the legislation will not be affected. The two groups chose not to challenge the portion of the law that applies to schools, though others may in the future. In 1997, the Supreme Court held that a previous attempt to control obscene content, the Communications Decency Act, was unconstitutional. Last year, a federal appeals court struck down the Children's Online Protection Act, but the Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to review that decision. CIPA includes a provision for expedited review of any lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Under CIPA, schools and libraries that receive E-rate support for internal connections and Internet access would be required to certify that they have adopted a protection measure and prepared an "Internet safety policy" that addresses a number of issues. Schools that receive funding under Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for Internet access and Internet-accessible computers and libraries that receive similar support under the Library Services and Technology Act, would be subject to similar, but not identical requirements.

By April 20, the Federal Communications Commission is supposed to issue regulations for implementing the E-rate portion of the law. Under a proposal released in January, the FCC would begin enforcing the law during the E-rate program's fourth funding year, but program participants would be able to certify that they were working toward compliance during the law's first year. The Education Department has not yet released the regulations that would apply to its programs.

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