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Progressive group drafts “opt-out” forms for PragerU Kids material

Says Parents’ Bill of Rights also protects children from conservative indoctrination.

PragerU Kids video
A PragerU Kids video describes George Floyd as "a Black man who resisted arrest and was held under the knee of a police officer, died while in custody." In fact, Floyd's death was ruled a homicide, and Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for more than 9 minutes, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.

When it was announced last week that PragerU Kids, the online conservative content purveyor, had been tapped by the Florida Department of Education to provide free videos, magazines and worksheets to supplement civics and government lessons this school year, Stephana Ferrell lost no time in drafting “opt-out” forms for her two elementary school kids.

Then the director of research and insight for the Florida Freedom To Read Project posted two versions of the forms on Twitter for other parents to access. [You can download them here.]

There’s a short form that says, I believe use of the PragerU curriculum …would violate my rights as a parent, and I would appreciate the opportunity to collaborate on the use of other supplemental materials for my child, should PragerU materials be made available in the classroom.

A longer version includes the statement: I want my child to participate in classroom instruction and discussion of our shared history that is presented truthfully, without political bias or deliberate framing. It’s my belief that through open discussion and civic debate, my child will be able to develop the necessary critical-thinking skills to compete on the global stage.

PragerU, which is not a real university or any kind of accredited educational institution, describes itself as “the leading hub for pro-American content online.” Founded by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager — and funded by billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the Wilks brothers Dan and Farris of Texas who earned their fortune from fracking — the site makes no secret of its mission to offer conservative counter-programming to what it says are the “radical activism” and “woke agendas … infiltrating classrooms, culture and social media.” Florida is the first state to approve its educational resources, which include history, civics, crafts, finances and Bible stories, for its K-12 classrooms.

It’s not clear if Orange County Public Schools will utilize PragerU Kids. It told WESH,

"While the Florida Department of Education just approved the use of the PragerU curriculum, district staff has not had an opportunity to fully review the items.”

But just in case, Ferrell is preparing to assert her right to “direct the education” and “moral or religious training” of her second-grader and fifth grader. According to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, signed into law in 2021 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Ferrell can “object to instructional materials and other materials used in the classroom,” including “workbooks and worksheets, handouts, software, applications, and any digital media made available to students."

Stephana Ferrell
Stephana Ferrell of Florida Freedom to Read Project: "This is using 'parental rights' as the law was intended."

So we had some questions for Ferrell about Florida Freedom to Read's opt-out forms. She responded via email.

VoxPopuli: What prompted you to create them?

Stephana Ferrell: Our goal was two-fold:

1. Show how parental rights can be used to limit access to materials you disagree with for your child, while not limiting others.

2. Help build more public awareness around PragerU materials and give parents an easy way to advocate against them.

A video PragerU released online to announce Florida’s approval included a statement [from CEO Marissa Streit], promising teachers that they will not be fired for using PragerU materials. The implication is that using other materials runs the risk of crossing the very blurry line of what is appropriate instruction on topics of racism, segregation, oppression, and discrimination.

We heard that OCPS does not plan to adopt PragerU as a supplemental material, but that’s not exactly what they told WESH when asked. If enough parents in the classroom ask for other options, it’s unlikely a teacher will choose to use them.

VoxPopuli: When did you decide to put the forms together?

Ferrell: Because we are public school parents that are familiar with the many ways we can restrict our students’ access based on our beliefs, the idea to create a template email asserting parental rights came pretty quickly. The Parents’ Bill of Rights allows parents to direct the moral and religious upbringing of their children. PragerU is very public about their conservative, Christian (sometimes referred to as “traditional”) values.

PragerU Kids Bible stories
PragerU Kids includes Bible stories among its history, civics, crafts and finance lessons.

We created a longer version for those that want to communicate how important they feel open classroom discussion is in addition to asking for the restriction on PragerU materials. This is for parents that are also concerned that the new standards may limit what is discussed about our history. The shorter version is hyper-focused on the PragerU opt-out.

VoxPopuli: Conservative parents have been using parental rights to have books removed from classrooms and school libraries. Is this a way for liberal parents to flip the script?

Ferrell: The law is there to protect children from what we believe to be indoctrination. If ever there was a time to assert those rights, this is it! This is using “parental rights” as the law is intended — to tailor the learning experience of a specific child at the request of a parent/guardian.

Those special interest groups demanding the removal of library books, supporting a whitewashed history, and lobbying for changes to the health curriculum are not asserting their “parental rights” over just their children. They are intentionally seeking to restrict access to information for everyone’s children. They are bastardizing the law they lobbied so hard for and using it to justify infringement of individual freedoms and liberties.


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