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Parents Fight Database Pornography In Schools

November 5, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By MIKE MANNO

A fight over pornography in school databases has broken out in a Colorado courtroom. In one corner is a database supplier, EBSCO Industries, Inc., along with its sales broker, the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC); in the other corner is a group of parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens who have banded together under the title Pornography Is Not Education.
The parents’ group, represented by the Thomas More Society’s senior counsel Matthew Heffron, is claiming that EBSCO’S databases, which are sold to schools in the state through a brokerage agreement with the Library Consortium, contain links to pornographic sites.
Here’s the background to the story: EBSCO is a multifaceted enterprise which, among other ventures, is involved in information services, publishing, and digital media. As part of its business, it sells various databases to institutions such as research facilities, colleges, libraries, and local school districts. These databases are constructed to provide information that, according to Heffron, is “more to the point” than simply searching the Internet.
The databases then provide links to information, journals, reports, webpages, and the like, that would theoretically be of interest to the user. The Library Consortium purchases the databases in bulk at a discount from EBSCO then resells them to individual schools and libraries in Colorado. Both EBSCO and the consortium claim the school databases contain information that is “age appropriate” for the intended audience.
But that is not so, says the parents’ group, which claims that EBSCO embeds pornography links in the databases it sells for use by schoolchildren doing homework and research. “EBSCO gets schools to purchase databases by falsely promising the databases are age-appropriate and specifically tailored for elementary, middle, and high school children,” said Heffron.
The parents’ fight with EBSCO and the consortium began about two years ago when parents found that its database system bypassed school Internet filters as well as private, parental filters. Since then only one school district, Cherry Creek, withdrew from its contract with the consortium. It did so this past September. On October 10, the parents’ group filed suit, claiming, in part, that EBSCO and the library consortium have violated the Colorado Deceptive Trade Practices Act which makes it illegal to make false claims to sell a product.
The lawsuit alleges that EBSCO falsely claims that the materials it supplies for schoolchildren are: “age-appropriate content”; “reliably high-quality from a variety of popular children’s sources”; “tailored for elementary, middle, and high school libraries”; “support elementary school curriculum standards”; and “have reliable content and curriculum-appropriate content.”
“These databases definitely are not age-appropriate, nor can parents consider them reliable, as EBSCO claims,” Heffron said.
“EBSCO has known its research databases specifically targeting schoolchildren have contained, and continue to contain, substantial amounts of easily accessible, sexually explicit material, which is obscene with respect to minors and/or is harmful to minors . . . the database also contains links outside the database to sex toy shops, to porn sites, to misogynistic materials espousing violence towards women and to ‘torture-porn’ sites, among other sites,” the suit alleges.
“Unsuspecting schoolchildren, believing themselves to be using a safe school research database, easily can stumble into these sexually explicit and obscene materials while searching otherwise benign topics on EBSCO databases,” the suit argues.
In addition, the suit also claims: “In February 2017, because of the materials EBSCO provides to Colorado schoolchildren, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation named EBSCO to the ‘2017 Dirty Dozen List’ of the worst twelve corporations in America that perpetuate sexual exploitation. . . . In February 2018, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation again returned EBSCO to the ‘Dirty Dozen List’ of the worst corporations in America that perpetuate sexual exploitation.”
The consortium, in a 25-page booklet on its webpage, “Demanding a Ban on All Digital Content!” makes the unsupported claim that the parents’ group wants to ban all digital school content and compares the group, Pornography Is Not Education, to those who advocate burning books. The elimination of all digital material, however, is not what the parents’ group demands, only the deletion of pornographic links on their children’s school-provided databases.
The consortium, in that booklet, states, without mentioning links to porn sites: “Many thousands of libraries across the U.S. license databases from commercial vendors and publishers. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Colorado, CLiC [the consortium] provides a variety of infrastructure services to hundreds of libraries across the state. Public libraries, schools, and academic libraries routinely ask CLiC to negotiate cost-saving discounts on their behalf, including subscriptions to web-based educational and research products from vendors and publishers. These are local decisions, made by each public library, school, or academic institution, to choose products for delivery to their own communities. CLiC respects those local decisions.”
That, of course, does not address the underlying complaint that children can access pornography through these databases. As Heffron points out, “Sixth graders do not need to know about sadomasochism.”
The parents are asking for injunctive relief prohibiting the defendants from providing databases intended for minors that contain sexually explicit or obscene materials; from making claims about the age-appropriateness of materials that contain sexually explicit materials; damages for each instance of violation of the state consumer protection act, costs and attorney fees.
This, while seemingly an insignificant matter to some, continues the alarming trend by many to upend the rights of parents to raise their children according to the parents’ beliefs and wishes. We’ve already seen schools opening locker rooms and other facilities to students of the opposite sex; lessons on “gay pride” and the proper use of non-gender pronouns; assisting children accessing contraceptives, the morning-after pill, and abortions.
All of it done by “professional” educators, who, if you ask, only have your children’s best interest at heart.
Fortunately there are organizations and lawyers who will stand up and fight those whose call in life seems to be a continuous attempt to erode parental rights even after being called out for it by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, national public-interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty by providing high-quality pro bono legal services.
Matthew Heffron works out of the Thomas More Omaha office and also serves as co-counsel for the pro-life undercover journalist David Daleiden. He is assisted in this matter by a local attorney, Theresa Sidebotham of the Telios Law Firm in Monument, Colo.
They, and so many others like them, deserve kudos and thanks for their efforts to rebalance the rights of parents against the secular left, whose gods have determined that our children belong to them.
(Mike can be reached at: DeaconMike@q.com.)

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