Drew and Robin Paterson recently contacted Safe Church to alert us to the troubling problem of pornography access even through EBSCO — a primary educational research search engine for children in many educational settings. We are republishing their letter, along with Robin's summary of the problem and suggested ways to confront it, below the letter. For more information on the effects of pornography on children and ways to protect children, please see Safe Church's Pornography Awareness resources.
Dear Mr. Timmermans,
Our family attends one of the Christian Reformed Churches in Colorado. Over the past year, we have faced some difficulties with the finding of pornography embedded into the school databases of our middle school child and we feel this is something that the CRC would want to know about.
As we moved to address this problem, it became clear that there was a lot more to the story. The pornography was not just embedded in our own child’s student account, nor was it limited to our school, or even to our school district.
In fact, virtually every school district in Colorado is purchasing subscriber “research databases” from EBSCO Information Services which, as unbelievable as this may be, are actually streaming obscene content into school databases.
EBSCO actually sells school products under a variety of names, claiming that they are vetted and age-appropriate, to over 50,000 schools nationwide. These are online research tools (Consumer Health, Explora, Mas Ultra, Academic Search, Flipster, Novelist and many more) and they do contain valid academic material but, as we have learned, they are also knowingly streaming pornography into the databases in a manner that is protected by contract with their publishing clients. Essentially, this is a “non-censorship” contract such that publishers can stream whatever they want to.
EBSCO knows that pornography is landing in children’s databases and they are aware that their advertisement of these products as “elementary”, “middle” or “high” school products is fraudulent.
Over the past year, our family has become embroiled in a battle that we would never have dreamed possible. Our first stop was our own school - a dead end. Next, we approached EBSCO — another dead end. We gave an interview to our local news media last fall — it never aired.
We got in touch with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) and, after independently verifying the nature of the material, this organization named EBSCO to the 2017 Dirty Dozen list as a major contributor to the sexual exploitation of women and children. EBSCO has made some minor changes to its databases and postures at “working with” the Center toward having their name removed from the list and yet this 3.5 billion dollar corporation continues to falsely advertise their school products and continues to allow publishers to stream obscene material into their school products.
We hope that you will review the information published by the NCOSE (http://endsexualexploitation.org/ebsco/ ) — this is something that has the potential to detrimentally impact literally millions of children nationwide and in Canada. These databases are also distributed internationally. As we have learned, the school database industry is an enormous, multi-billion dollar industry.
Our school district, under local pressure, has removed some of the obscene databases from its middle schools — although they have left links to the same material (actually, worse) through the public libraries which have no filters. Our district’s high schools have an abundance of obscene material available to students through subscriber databases like EBSCO and others.
We have found links to escort services, hardcore porn, and sex toys shops peppered all through the EBSCO databases. We have found similar material embedded throughout the GALE Opposing Viewpoints databases (a Cengage company). This latter also publishes editorials espousing the merits of sex work, and the use of pornography for educational and recreational purposes and provides links to obscene websites, including hardcore porn videos.
We have found that OverDrive (another online subscriber database which is sold to schools across the country) is streaming hundreds of pornographic ebooks which are referred to as “erotic literature”. We found this material streaming onto the landing page of this database while sitting in the children’s section of our local public library — it is literally offered to children from the landing page, with evocative images inviting children to click and open the stories.
We showed the obscene material to the librarians and then we approached the Director and Board of Trustees with the information. They admitted that their “top site” filters are incapable of reaching into a subscriber database — the material cannot be filtered, even from computers that are designated for children. And yet, despite these admissions, the library continues to provide access to Overdrive e-books and EBSCO from children’s computers. They have done nothing to correct the problem.
Schools across the country are subscribing to EBSCO, GALE, Overdrive, and other database companies which are streaming pornography into school products.
The GALE Opposing Viewpoints database actually lures children to a front for the Zaragoza Escorts, under the auspices of a sexual health website located under their “Sex Education” category. In EBSCO, we located articles, such as “The Sex Queen of L.A.”, advertising the playboy mansion, with links, and soliciting sign-up for mindgeek, a major producer of pornography. Articles such as “Welcome to the Golden Age of Sex” or “How to be a Better Bottom” are streamed at children and glamorize risky sexual practices. Articles such as “Porn Panic” give the URLs for scores of hardcore porn sites, and some articles, such as “Yup, We Said It: Sex Toys”, even contain live links that a child need only click on. These are just a few examples, children can click on “find similar articles” and be overwhelmed with similar content; these articles are not filtered by the schools — the internal database content is protected from filters. Most schools would need to manually block external links — we have found that many of the porn sites or sex toy shops are accessible even when linked through school wifi — and now schools across the country are even advertising EBSCO mobile apps so children can further increase access.
These databases are available to the CRC for review through Calvin College. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance.
Our family has tried its best to get the word out. We have blogged, we have spoken at school board and library meetings, we have given interviews and we have spoken to parents. We have reached out to our leaders at our church.
We are writing to you in the hopes that the CRC will take an interest in this and a leadership role in getting the word out. It may be hard to believe — but it is happening. Children are under assault and we hope and pray that there might be something that the CRC can do to raise awareness and push back against these corporate abuses. We feel that many schools and institutions remain unaware of the pornography embedded in their subscriber databases. A unified voice in demanding that the providers clean up their products would be an important step.
We thank you for your time in reading this letter and pray that your efforts will bring safety for children.
Drew and Robin Paterson
This announcement is to raise awareness around the country about the evolving scandal concerning the use of K-12 “school databases” to market pornography. The international, 3 billion dollar, EBSCO Information Services, is at the center of this scandal and the subject of several recent news stories across the country. The Washington D.C based, National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has named EBSCO to the 2017 Dirty Dozen List as a major contributor to the sexual exploitation of women and children. EBSCO is marketed to over 50,000 elementary, middle and high schools, as well as public libraries and colleges, across the country, and in Canada. Our group, Concerned Citizens for School Databases, has networked with others around the country in an ongoing effort to expose these crimes. Many parents and teachers remain unaware of the content of the EBSCO databases which are streaming promotional material for the 15 billion dollar “sex toy industry” in the form of “erotic” narratives, articles, how-to instructions, images, and links to sex toy shops and even to hardcore pornography websites. The pornography industry is estimated to be worth 95 billion dollars and EBSCO appears to be profiting from the exploitation of a captive audience of children to market pornography. The information was originally published by Mass Resistance last Fall (http://www.massresistance.org/docs/gen3/17a/CO-middle-school-x-rated/ebsco-database.html ) and later aired nationally on Washington Watch and several other radio programs. Parents, teachers and concerned citizens are urged to review the NCOSE website for more information: http://endsexualexploitation.org/ebsco/
Under increasing pressure, EBSCO has postured at change but we don’t see much evidence of it — they continue to stream large volumes of obscene material, into K-12 portals, apparently targeting a captive audience of students with pro-sexualizing marketing propaganda, much of it espousing violence against women. We believe that this online assault, usurping the K-12 portals of tens of thousands of schools around the country, with ugly, violent propaganda is contributing to the rise in sexual assault involving children and youth that we see ballooning in the news every day. The multi-billion dollar giant, EBSCO is not the only “school database” provider which our group has found to be problematic — we have located similar material in certain Pro-Quest, Cengage / GALE and Overdrive databases, as well as others.
How has EBSCO managed to worm its way into our nations’ schools? For one thing, EBSCO is “generous” with spreading “grant money” and other favors to schools around the country and we have made the shocking discovery that schools are not always forthcoming with admitting a problem or dealing with it. We have located obscene EBSCO content in private and parochial schools as well as public schools. Our own school district, the prestigious Cherry Creek School District in Colorado, has dragged its heels for almost a year, denying, threatening, disciplining teachers who raised concerns, and even posturing at absurd defensive positions, rather than simply canceling their EBSCO subscription. By lying to the public, our school district managed to beat back media exposure for almost a year but as concerned citizens came together, the information has now been aired by CBS4 out of Denver http://denver.cbslocal.com/2017/06/29/school-district-database-objectionable-material/http://denver.cbslocal.com/2017/06/29/school-district-database-objectionable-material/, and Fox news out of Birmingham http://www.wbrc.com/story/35775174/could-your-kids-find-pornographic-articles-on-school-computers. WND, Education Week and other news outlets have also picked up the story.
Unfortunately, the fight is not over — and we urge parents across the country to ask to see their school’s online databases (these are often accessible only through student passwords that parents will have to obtain), and demand accountability from their schools — for more instructions on how parents can work with their children’s schools to identify and deal with database problems please see the NCOSE website.