The group Citizens Defending Freedom sued the Nassau County school district. l News4JaxThe group Citizens Defending Freedom sued the Nassau County school district. l News4Jax
The group Citizens Defending Freedom sued the Nassau County school district. l News4Jax

Nassau County Schools sued over curriculum materials

Published on February 16, 2024 at 3:34 pm

The group Citizens Defending Freedom has sued the Nassau County school district, claiming the district did not fully fulfill its request for information about the behavioral health curriculum, which the group wants to review to ensure materials are age-appropriate.

Citizens Defending Freedom describes itself as a group empowering citizens to defend their freedom and liberty and to place local government back into the hands of the people.

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The group wants to get the curriculum materials from a program known as “Ripple Effects,” which is provided by an outside vendor for students in middle and high schools in need of life skills or resiliency training.

The lawsuit, filed in the 4th Judicial Circuit of Florida, said the group has requested to see the materials covered in the Ripple Effect program since July 24. 

Jack Knocke, the group’s executive director, said the lawsuit focuses on transparency. His organization wants to be able to review the materials so they can make sure the topics covered are appropriate, he said.

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“When we’re told that we can’t see something, that’s a little bit of an alarm bell,” Knocke said. “When we got a little snippet of information that they did share, we saw some issues that I think are somewhat concerning that I think we need to see more of.”

He said the group is concerned about topics of a sexual nature.

The Nassau school district said it could not comment about the lawsuit. But the court filing includes a letter from the school district attorney saying the district does not have access to the Ripple Effect program because it is administered by the vendor. The district also said it did not believe the materials used in the program are available for public access.

In that letter, the school district provided a list of over 400 topics that are a part of the Ripple Effect program and also provided a list of topics that were not authorized to be used as part of the program in Nassau County schools.

Of the more than 400 topics the Ripple Effects program has available,138 topics are not allowed to be covered. Those topics include the sexual themes Knocke mentioned, as well as marijuana, alcohol, LGBTQ+ subjects and other similar topics.

Knocke said the only way his group can be sure the topics are not offered through the behavioral health program is to review the materials for themselves.

“All I want is to be able to see the materials. You know, I’m not trying to sue them for millions of dollars. That’s not what we’re about,” Knocke said.

According to correspondence between the school district and Citizens Defending Freedom, Ripple Effects training is provided only to students who need behavioral health training, and their parents must give written consent before starting the program. The school district also said a parent can request to review the program if they have concerns.

Correspondence between the group and the school district shows Nassau County schools did send Citizens Defending Freedom some of the information the group requested. That included training material used by Starting Point Behavioral Health and the memorandum of understanding between the school district and the vendor.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.

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