Conservative advocacy group PragerU says teachers can now show the group's videos in class. Districts disagree.Conservative advocacy group PragerU says teachers can now show the group's videos in class. Districts disagree.
Conservative advocacy group PragerU says teachers can now show the group's videos in class. Districts disagree.

Northeast Florida schools say teachers can’t show PragerU videos

Published on August 25, 2023 at 3:49 pm

At least five Northeast Florida schools districts say teachers are not allowed to show the controversial PragerU Kids videos in classes. That’s a sharp contrast with PragerU’s advertising campaign, which claims that teachers are free to show videos from the conservative nonprofit.

“If teachers in Florida want to use our PragerU Kids materials … they are able to, and they will not be reprimanded, there cannot be pushback about it,” PragerU Kids’ director of outreach, Jill Simonian, said in a video in July. “We are an approved curriculum in Florida schools.”

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But school districts disagree with her claim. School district representatives in Baker, Clay, Duval, Putnam and St Johns counties all said PragerU is not approved in their classrooms. Nassau County Schools did not reply to a Jacksonville Today request for comment.

PragerU advertises its content as “pro-American” and an alternative to “woke agendas.” The program is not an accredited university, nor is it an official education vendor since all the videos are free. Critics call the videos misleading and right-wing propaganda and have drafted sample opt out forms for parents.

The Florida Department of Education told news outlets after PragerU’s announcement in July that “material aligns to Florida’s revised civics and government standards.”

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School districts say that statement doesn’t authorize teachers to use the videos in classes. Clay County Schools says Florida’s own recent content laws prevent teachers from using the videos.

“We follow HB 1467, and therefore all supplemental materials not part of a district-adopted curriculum must be approved by the school-based curriculum council,” a Clay schools representative told Jacksonville Today. “Supplemental materials include worksheets, videos, consumables, websites, etc. and would need approval before being presented to students.”

HB 1467 requires schools to maintain lists of library materials and makes it easier for parents to contest schoolbooks. The law was the foundation of Duval Schools’ districtwide review of books this year, a process that is continuing.

The law also states, “Each district school superintendent shall implement procedures that provide a process for public review of, public comment on and the adoption of materials.”

When Jacksonville Today asked St. Johns County Schools whether teachers could still show the videos, even though they’re not in the curriculum, the district said, “Teachers are expected to follow the curriculum maps for the course they are instructing.”

Here’s how each Northeast Florida district responded to Jacksonville Today’s request about whether PragerU videos were being used in classrooms.

Baker County Schools
“The Baker County School District does not use PragerU.”

Clay County Schools
“Based on our current instructional materials policy, Clay County District Schools has not adopted PragerU as a curriculum or an approved supplemental resource for use in our social studies classrooms for the 2023-2024 school year. We follow HB 1467, and therefore all supplemental materials not part of a district-adopted curriculum must be approved by the school-based curriculum council. Supplemental materials include worksheets, videos, consumables, websites, etc. and would need approval before being presented to students.”

Duval County Public Schools
“The district is not using PragerU, nor is it supported in our curriculum.” Asked whether teachers could play the videos anyway, the district said, “Given that we support so many classroom lesson resources and guidance aligned to the curriculum used in our classrooms, there is no reason or expectation that a teacher would bring in resources not supported in the district.”

Nassau County Schools
The district did not respond to a request for comment.

Putnam County Schools
“PCSD has not yet adopted new resources for social studies, and we have not reviewed the content in this particular resource. Until we complete the review process for core materials, we will not consider using additional supplemental resources.”

When Jacksonville Today also asked how parents can find out whether PragerU Kids videos are being shown in their child’s classroom, the district said, “I would suggest parents reach out to the school directly.”

St. Johns County Public Schools
“Prager U videos are not included in our curriculum maps. Our teachers are provided with curriculum maps that focus on School Board-adopted resources and include additional vetted, standards-based materials. Teachers are expected to follow the curriculum maps for the course they are instructing. This resource is not included in the curriculum maps.”


author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Claire has been a reporter in Jacksonville since August of 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reach Claire with tips, ideas or comments at (904) 250-0926, claire@jaxtoday.org and on Twitter at @ClaireHeddles.
author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Claire has been a reporter in Jacksonville since August of 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. Reach Claire with tips, ideas or comments at (904) 250-0926, claire@jaxtoday.org and on Twitter at @ClaireHeddles.

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