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Former Students Reveal Ron DeSantis Was a Problematic High School Teacher

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

But are we surprised?

With Florida Governor Ron DeSantis up for reelection today, several of his former students from his time teaching at a private high school in Georgia have come forward with allegations about his unbecoming behavior as an educator.

DeSantis had just graduated from Yale University when he taught history at Darlington School from 2001-2002, though he does not have his time listed in any of his professional bios. He also appears to not have spoken on it publicly since obtaining national attention.

Through interviews with The New York Times, many alumni remember DeSantis, who was 23 at the time, as "cocky and arrogant." They recalled how he publicly embarrassed one student with a prank, attended parties thrown by seniors, and got into debates with students about the Civil War.

Matthew Arne, who was a senior at the time DeSantis taught at Darlington, revealed that DeSantis expressed his strong views against abortion more than once. Arne's then-girlfriend had once informed him that DeSantis strictly believes the procedure is morally wrong.

“He’s pretty much held fast to what he believes in,” Arne said. “Mr. DeSantis was kind of a smug guy. It was like a kind of ‘I’m better than you,’ and we were all just kids.”

Several students recall seeing DeSantis at more than one house party thrown by seniors, some of which involved alcohol. Shortly after DeSantis left Darlington, a memo went out to staff reminding them that that fraternizing with students is inappropriate.

On one occasion, DeSantis allegedly challenged a student to chug as much milk as he was able, resulting in him vomiting in front of dozens of his peers. Adam Moody, who witnessed the incident as a freshman, is now a school teacher himself. He said he can't imagine taking the actions DeSantis chose.

“I think about it, now — I’m a teacher now in public school. I put myself in that moment, and it’s just unthinkable," Moody said. "There’s a cruelty to the sense of humor. There’s a cruelty to the mentorship.”

Danielle Pompey, who graduated in 2003, detailed how she felt that DeSantis treated her differently because of her race. She shared that he even made marks about the economic efficacy of slavery, in what she viewed as an attempt to justify it.

“Mr. Ron, Mr. DeSantis, was mean to me and hostile toward me. Not aggressively, but passively, because I was Black," Pompey said. "Like in history class, he was trying to play devil’s advocate that the South had good reason to fight that war, to kill other people, over owning people — Black people. He was trying to say, ‘It’s not OK to own people, but they had property, businesses.’”

DeSantis has been a key figure in the passing of anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare and education laws, most infamously with Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, which strips the license of any teacher who discusses sexuality or gender in their classroom. Pompey believes DeSantis' views 20 years ago reflect his policies of division as Governor.

“He had a good opportunity to enrich people, to come there from the Northeast and show people in the South that we can blend,” she explained. “It seemed like he didn’t want to do that.”

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