Schools and the Children's Internet Protection Act

Prepared by Jenner & Block,
ALA Legal Counsel, September 2001

Why does the American Library Association believe that the Children’s Internet Protection Act is unconstitutional?

The filtering mandate imposed by Congress imposes restrictions on access to constitutionally protected speech on the patrons served by libraries. Restrictions on access to speech in the library are antithetical to the mission of the library to provide patrons with unfettered access to all available and constitutionally protected speech.

Does the American Library Association believe the Act is unconstitutional in the school library context?

Yes. The American Library Association believes strongly that the Children’s Internet Protection Act is unconstitutional in both the context of the public library and the school library. The American Library Association remains firmly committed to supporting the school community and pledges to support any legal effort by school groups to challenge the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act in the school context.

Is the American Library Association currently challenging the Children’s Internet Protection Act on behalf of school libraries?

School libraries are not included as plaintiffs in the current legal suit, but ALA remains committed to assisting schools and school libraries in any efforts to challenge the legislation. The reason school libraries are not currently included is a technical/legal concept known as “legal standing.”

What does the term “legal standing” mean?

Courts require individuals or organizations to establish a direct injury to permit a legal suit. In order to challenge the Children’s Internet Protection Act, an individual or organization must establish that they are the direct recipient of the federal funds at issue, a user of the entity required to filter or a content provider that will be blocked by filtering technology.

Why does the American Library Association lack legal standing to challenge the law on behalf of school libraries?

The Children’s Internet Protection Act mandates filtering and blocking technology for schools or public libraries that apply for e-rate discounts for Internet connections or specified funding under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) for Internet use. School libraries are not the direct recipients of funds under these statutes, but rather receive funding through their individual schools. The school entities that apply, receive and oversee the federal funds at issue under these statutes are not members of the American Library Association. The school libraries that are members of the American Library Association do not function independently of the schools for purposes of funding under the statutes and, as a result, do not have legal standing.

Will the current CIPA litigation have any impact on school libraries?

The CIPA litigation will not directly impact the obligation of school recipients to install technology protection measures if they accept the specified federal funds. School communities will, however, benefit in other ways. For example, the deadline for a fund recipient to decide whether to install filters has been delayed until next spring for both public libraries and schools after extensive negotiations between counsel for ALA and counsel for the government. Additionally, the factual record regarding the ineffectiveness of filters developed in the CIPA case will be useful to any school group that chooses to challenge the application of CIPA in the school context.

Will the American Library Association assist the school community to challenge the provisions of CIPA?

The American Library Association strongly supports the school community. The American Library Association has pledged to lend its support to any legal effort by school groups challenging the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act in the school context.