Conservative parent group pulls lawsuit claiming database firm provided access to porn in Cherry Creek schools

599

AURORA | A group of parents claiming an educational database was peddling pornography to school-age children in Aurora have pulled a lawsuit against a statewide library network and the database provider, according to one of the defendants named in the claim.

The group of some 60 parents and grandparents from across the state, who were named as plaintiffs in the original suit, recanted their claim against the Colorado Library Consortium on Feb. 15 and EBSCO Information Services on Feb. 26, according to Jim Duncan, executive director of CLiC.

“Money and time spent on CLiC’s legal defense in this frivolous lawsuit could have been better used to support schools, libraries, and our communities,” Duncan said in a statement. “CLiC unifies libraries so that they deliver a valuable return on taxpayer investments … throughout our state’s many diverse regions, from rural to suburban to urban to mountain communities.”

The lawsuit was the first claim ever filed against the statewide library consortium in the organization’s history, according to Duncan.

Members of the parent group that filed the suit, however, say they’re not backing off their allegations against EBSCO, the quasi-internet database provider.

In a statement, the group — deemed Pornography is Not Education — said it will “continue to monitor EBSCO in Colorado and throughout the country.”

The retraction of the lawsuit ostensibly ends a years-long battle between an Aurora couple and the Cherry Creek School District. 

Aurora parents Drew and Robin Paterson helped drive the suit after they alleged EBSCO databases — which their child was using in a Cherry Creek school at the time — easily returned pornographic links for seemingly innocuous search terms in late 2016.

The Patersons became a fixture at CCSD school board meetings, regularly protesting the use of EBSCO material. Cherry Creek officials elected to drop the district’s contract with EBSCO in September.

Denver Public Schools and the Douglas County School District have also severed ties with EBSCO following similar blowback in recent years.

The suit filed in Arapahoe County claimed EBSCO databases easily returned pornographic links for seemingly innocuous search terms. The claim alleged the title “Bondage bites: 69 super-short stories of love, lust and BDSM,” was readily available after only a few clicks.

The collective plaintiffs in the case included some five dozen “parents and grandparents of elementary, junior-high and high-school students in the Colorado public school systems who have been impacted by research databases provided by EBSCO,” according to the original complaint.

Representatives from EBSCO did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but executives from the company denounced the lawsuit when it was filed last year.

“We are appalled by the tenor of allegations related to our intent and the inaccuracies of statements clearly made in absence of factual information,” Kathleen McEvoy, vice president of communications for EBSCO, said in a statement last fall. 

Some 55,000 schools across the country used EBSCO databases, which serve as a quasi-internet research tool, as of last year, according to the Cherry Creek School District.

A spokesman for the Thomas More Society, the conservative law firm that filed the suit, said in a statement the group tossed out the claim due to “procedural legal technicalities” related to whether parents have legal authority to pursue an injunction.

The parents’ voluntary dismissal has nothing to do with the merits of the lawsuit against EBSCO and the Library Consortium: they stand behind the allegations in the lawsuit entirely,” the Thomas More Society wrote in a statement. “ … (The group) believes it would have prevailed.”

Billed as a “public interest” and not-for-profit law firm, the Thomas More Society was founded in the late 1990s to provide legal defense to pro-life activists who regularly demonstrated outside of abortion clinics, according to the group’s website.

Theresa Sidebotham, a Monument-based attorney who locally filed the suit on behalf the Thomas More Society, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.