Fort Thomas schools looking into claims of inappropriate material on student reading app

A mother of an elementary-aged student says her child can access books labeled for adults.
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:48 PM EDT
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FORT THOMAS, Ky. (WXIX) - Fort Thomas school leaders are now looking into concerns about a student reading app after a parent reported that the app gives elementary-aged children access to sexually explicit materials.

Jade Stanford is a mother of three in Fort Thomas. She says the Sora reading app is for students in grades 3-12 at Fort Thomas Independent Schools. In Stanford’s eyes, the app can be a great resource because it acts as an online library.

However, Stanford said she discovered that elementary aged children can access books labeled for “young adults” or “general adults” on the app. That includes novels Stanford calls inappropriate.

Stanford showed FOX19 NOW a page of a book that she accessed in the app on her elementary-aged child’s device. Stanford said the book explains how to use a “sex app.”

“A couple of the books that I came across provided ways to get on Grindr, which is an app to find hookup relationships. There was a lot of detail about sex education, if you will, and how to go about doing that in many different ways,” Stanford said.

Stanford explained that there is a “preferences” option on the app, where parents can select an age group that dictates what books are accessible, but she says it is not foolproof.

“My kids can go in and just as easily click the same preference and hit ‘all’ and have access to everything again,” she said.

Stanford stood before members of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools board at their meeting on Monday night to bring her concerns to their attention.

She said she is not attacking the district or a certain book, but wants to see security increased.

“Not just my kids or my school district should be aware of this, I want to make sure that we’re creating a safe environment for all of our kids for the schools all over the country,” Stanford said.

Brian Robinson, the superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools, released a statement regarding the issue:

“We are in the process of looking more deeply into the concerns raised by the parent at the Board meeting last evening. We have a great desire to ensure that the instructional materials our students access are appropriate. Under no circumstance would our faculty knowingly allow for the types of materials referenced during the community forum. While I am not aware of students unknowingly accessing these types of materials, we are working to ensure we take the appropriate measures to address her concerns.”

Robinson and other technology district officials are scheduled to meet with Stanford on Friday to discuss Stanford’s concerns.

A spokesperson for OverDrive, the company behind Sora, said that at most schools that use Sora, the content is purchased by degreed librarians and teachers. He also added that school administrators, not students, control access to content.

He said they are looking into the claims.

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