DeSantis’ students speak out about ‘hostile’ behaviour towards Black people, partying and inaccurate lessons

The governor allegedly debated the cause of the Civil War and partied with the school’s seniors during his year as a teacher

Graig Graziosi
Monday 07 November 2022 15:30 GMT
Related video: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis releases ad suggesting God created him

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was reportedly “passively” mean to a student because she was Black and taught inaccurate information regarding the US Civil War when he taught high school early in his adulthood.

The New York Times reported this week that Mr DeSantis spent his first year after graduating from Yale University teaching at Darlington School, one of the Georgia’s oldest and largest boarding schools.

At least one student from his days teaching there, Danielle Pompey, claimed he treated her poorly, and she believes it was because of the colour of her skin.

“Mr Ron, Mr DeSantis, was mean to me and hostile toward me” she told the Times. “Not aggressively, but passively, because I was Black.”

She said once while he was teaching about the Civil War, she felt he was making arguments for the justification of slavery.

“Like in history class, he was trying to play devil’s advocate that the South had good reason to fight the war, to kill other people, over owning people — Black people,” she said. “He was trying to say ‘It’s not OK to own people, but they had property, businesses.”

A Times reporter spoke with colleagues and students who knew Mr DeSantis during his year at the school during a 20-year Darlington class reunion.

Mr DeSantis was only 23 when he began teaching at the school in 2001, and had a mixed reputation among those who remembered him.

Some claimed he frequently reminded them that teaching was just a pit stop on his way to bigger and better things — like a career in politics — while others said he was an enjoyable presence who spent time hanging out with the seniors.

That wasn’t a sentiment shared by everyone at the reunion. Gates Minis, who graduated in 2003, said the now Florida governor was a “total jock” who could be arrogant.

“He was definitely proud that he graduated Ivy and thought he was very special,” she said.

Ms Minis was in the same class as Ms Pompey and said she also recalled those arguments during the Civil War section of the class. She said she didn’t believe that Mr DeSantis was politically motivated, just that he was factually incorrect.

She added that Mr DeSantis claimed that every city in the south was burned during the Civil War, but she knew her hometown of Savannah had not. She says she called him out on the inaccuracy.

Another former student, who asked not be named for fear of retribution at his job, said Mr DeSantis’s views on the Civil War were so well known that a parody video was made for the school’s video yearbook.

The Times reviewed the video, which includes a snippet of a student imitating Mr DeSantis saying “The Civil War was not about slavery! It was about two competing economic systems One was in the North…” before the video cuts to a student dozing off in class.

However, other students recalled Mr DeSantis fondly.

“He was definitely one of the cooler guys,” Trip Barnes, a student whose mother taught at the school, told the Times. “There were other young teachers who tried to be everybody’s friend who didn’t have nearly his mystique.”

He said Mr DeSantis was "charismatic" and "very smart," noting that "people liked him."

Mr DeSantis does not speak or frequently acknowledge the time he spent at the school. His year there does not appear in many of his official biographies and there are few accounts of him speaking at any length about his time at the school.

Other students recalled Mr DeSantis spending time at parties with seniors who lived in the town near the school. Those who spoke about hanging out with him at parties did so anonymously for fear of backlash.

"As an 18-year-old I remember thinking, ‘What are you doing here, dude?’" a former student said.

In addition to partying with students, others recalled him allegedly daring students to do stunts. One student, who requested anonymity, said Mr DeSantis challenged a student to guzzle milk, which caused the student to vomit.

A spokeswoman for Darlington declined to comment about Mr DeSantis’ time at the school. The Independent has reached out to Mr DeSantis for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in