February 22, 2017

Pornography in our Schools! A New Culprit

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is blowing the whistle on a major problem of pornography in our K-12 schools!

NCOSE has long been involved in the fight to protect America’s youth from pornography and sexual exploitation in our school system. Until recently, we thought one of the biggest problems was that the schools either don’t provide filters or provide ineffective ones. We have also long been concerned and working to correct the problem of schools giving out unfiltered and unprotected devices to students for use in school and at home, often not even telling parents about it. Our other big concern is the lack of education our schools are providing regarding digital citizenship and media literacy.

But, all of these significant concerns pale in comparison to what we have discovered is being piped into school libraries (whether public or private) through online databases such as EBSCO Information Services, ProQuest and Cengage. These databases, which these companies claim are designed for the appropriate age-group, are unequivocally filled with pornography and sexually explicit content.

When one very concerned mom and dad exposed this explicit content available at their child’s school, we started looking into it ourselves, certain it must have been blown out of proportion. We were appalled to find specifically that EBSCO Information Services, which promotes itself as family-built and socially responsible, was providing nearly a dozen products to elementary, middle, and high schools riddled with such content.

When we performed innocent searches, we were bombarded with explicit articles and books, many containing live links to hardcore pornography websites and tutorials and advice promoting risky sexual behavior. A few examples:

  • When looking at one EBSCO product called Explora through a middle school portal, we selected the category “sex education” and the third article suggested to us was titled “The Golden Age of Sex” which contained cartoon graphics and encouraged readers to engage in anal, public, and group sex because those things are “trending up.”
  • When looking at the EBSCO product called NoveList through an elementary school portal, we discovered the search category “adult” right on the front page. That category selection led to hundreds of mostly “adult erotica” book suggestions. We randomly clicked on one called “Candy Licker” which offered a preview. The previewable text depicted a violent rape of a young woman with the use of a gun barrel.
  • When looking at the EBSCO product called Poetry and Short Story Reference Center through a middle school portal, we typed in “boys stories,” thinking that could be a common search a young kid would do to find relevant items to their interests. Many of the hundreds of suggestions were sexual in nature. We randomly clicked one titled, “Jeff Kendall’s Boys Come of Age” which happened to be a short story of a priest having sex with a woman on her wedding day, then being murdered, and then the woman being taken by the killer for further sexual abuse.

Is any of this material appropriate for K-12 students?

We agree! The answer is a big, “NO!”

For this reason, NCOSE has named EBSCO International Services to its annual Dirty Dozen List in 2017. The good news is that EBSCO reached out to us and shared that they are currently making drastic changes to improve this problem. We applaud their concern and believe they are sincere in wanting to fix this problem. It is our opinion though, that parents and schools must be made aware of the content available right now through these types of online databases through their school libraries.

We invite you to help educate the public, especially other parents, and to take action! 

Can you check to see if your local schools subscribe to EBSCO Information Services, ProQuest and/or Cengage?

How to check:

  1. Go to your local school’s main website and navigate to the library page.
  2. You will likely see a link to “online databases” or “research materials” somewhere on the page (you might have to poke around for it) and then click on that section.
  3. They usually have the databases they subscribe to listed right there. If you see one of these products, please email us at public@ncose.com and provide the URL where you found this. Please include the school name, county and state in your email to us.

You can also find other actions to take on this topic here: http://endsexualexploitation.org/ebsco/


Dawn Hawkins

Chief Executive Officer

Dawn Hawkins is CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the leading organization exposing the connections between all forms of sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and child sexual abuse. Dawn’s energy, creativity and mobilization skills are deployed to build a world free from sexual violence, with freedom and human dignity for all.

Dawn is deeply committed to bipartisan political solutions at the federal and state level. Her issue expertise, visionary initiatives, and innovative strategy have led to groundbreaking change in the legislative arena and in multimillion-dollar corporate policies.

Dawn has been instrumental in re-imaging the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has centered the need to address buyer demand for commercial sex, called out corporate entities facilitating exploitation through the annual Dirty Dozen List, fostered an international movement, and constantly: advocates for survivors. Her work has sparked change at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Comcast, Walmart, the Department of Defense, Instagram, TikTok, and other influential firms. Dawn has appeared on many television programs, including CNN, Fox & Friends, and Good Morning America. She regularly authors articles and speaks around the country addressing the public health harms of pornography, curbing demand for sex trafficking, protecting children and families in our digital world, and more.

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