School librarian challenges district, receives AASL' Intellectual Freedom Award

Contact: Melissa Jacobsen
AASL Communications Specialist
(312) 280-4381
mjacobsen@ala.org

NEWS
For Immediate Release
May 4, 2010

 

CHICAGO – Karyn Storts-Brinks, school librarian for the Knox County School District, is the 2010 recipient of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Intellectual Freedom Award. Nominated by the Tennessee Library Association, Storts-Brinks challenged the school district to insure that all students had access to education information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

As an advisor for the school's Gay Straight Alliance Club, Storts-Brinks noticed that certain websites were being blocked due to the school's Internet filtering software. The "gay-positive" sites were being blocked, but "gay-negative" sites were still accessible to students. Storts-Brinks argued that students were only allowed to access one side of information about LGBT issues.

When Storts-Brinks' challenge of the school district proved unsuccessful, she contacted the ACLU for support. After further negotiations failed to gain any compromise, a lawsuit was filed against the Knox County School District. She and three students were listed as plaintiffs on the lawsuit. Karyn says of filing the lawsuit, "It's really the students who were brave. I'm an adult, I can handle the negative attention; one of the plaintiffs was a freshman at the time."

In June 2009, the Knox County School District agreed to unblock the sites with LGBT information. As a result, all schools in Tennessee changed the settings on their Internet filtering software.

Betsy Davis, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Award Subcommittee, said, "The Intellectual Freedom Award selection committee was impressed with Karyn's commitment to her students.  She was willing to put her career on the line in order to defend her high schoolers' right to information.  I hope that in a similar situation I would be as brave.  Her story is inspiring, and the students of Tennessee are lucky to have her as their advocate."

Storts-Brinks will be honored at AASL's Awards Luncheon during ALA's 2010 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The luncheon will be held Monday, June 28.

Established in 1982, the award, $2,000 to the recipient and $1,000 to the media center of the recipient's choice, is given for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom as set forth by AASL and ALA. The award is sponsored by ProQuest.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.