Parent group sues Colorado Library Consortium over database it alleges gives kids access to pornography
Drew Paterson remembers when he and his wife realized their middle school daughter’s online school account in the Cherry Creek School District was linked to raw, unfiltered pornography.
“She calls to me, ‘You need to come here right now and see if I’m seeing what I think I’m seeing’” Paterson said Wednesday. “It was just appalling. And the thought our middle school daughter could be exposed to that was just appalling.”
That day two years ago led to Wednesday’s filing of a lawsuit against a national contractor that sells online research databases to schools and the nonprofit Colorado Library Consortium, alleging they spread pornography to unsuspecting Colorado school kids.
Pornography is Not Education, a parent group led by the Patersons, alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Arapahoe County District Court that databases provided by EBSCO Industries Inc., and distributed by the consortium, contain erotic and BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism) stories that could be located through innocent searches by kids and their parents.
Paterson said it’s unlikely EBSCO and the consortium embedded and distributed the pornography by mistake. “It’s difficult to believe they didn’t know,” he said.
EBSCO spokeswoman Kathleen McEvoy denied the allegations Wednesday, saying the company has worked to provide appropriate content to university libraries, public libraries, school libraries and other organizations for more than 70 years.
The lawsuit against EBSCO and the library consortium claims parents have found in their child’s school databases a full-text e-book entitled “Pornography in America: A Reference Handbook,” which contained live web links to a company hosting video pornography and promoting the pornography industry. Parents also found that benign searches for terms such as “robotics,” “girl’s stories,” “boy stories,” “grade 7 biology” and “respiration” retrieved links to “lust,” “bondage,” “sex toys” and “sexual positions,” the lawsuit alleges
Parents found more than 100 different instances of advertising for one particular large-scale sex toy store and an alleged teen website that advises children to use plastic wrap to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, according to the lawsuit.
“Children don’t have to be looking for porn,” Robin Paterson, Drew’s wife, said in a statement. “They can stumble into it in these EBSCO databases. Imagine how that might affect your grade schooler.”
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the parents by the Thomas More Society, a national nonprofit law firm that describes itself as “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family and religious liberty.” It is asking that a judge issue an injunction stopping EBSCO and the consortium from providing databases that contain pornography to underage kids.
In September, the Cherry Creek School District cut ties to EBSCO after working with the company for a year to make sure objectionable content couldn’t be accessed through the database and to tighten search filters. The district said it was not satisfied with EBSCO’s results.