Ron DeSantis might be president one day. Maybe not in the wake of the 2024 election, but one day. He’ll almost certainly continue to be Florida’s governor, even if he won’t commit to spending all four years in office. Still, he has a dodgy track record, and a new report by The New York Times about his stint, in his early 20s, as a high school teacher only adds to his infamy.
In the early aughts, at age 23, DeSantis spent a year teaching history and coaching baseball and football at Darlington School, an independent private school in northwest Georgia (which, incidentally, is today represented by Marjorie Taylor Greene). He was a fresh-faced Ivy League graduate, ambitious and arrogant. He made it clear he wasn’t long for the school, destined for greater things — like, say, governor of a state and arch-nemesis of a future former president.
As coach, DeSantis was reportedly helpful and inspirational. As a history teacher, however, he was extremely questionable. Former students, who made him the talk of their 20th reunion, told NYT that they questioned the veracity of the claims he made in class, especially about the Civil War. What’s more, he was allegedly “mean” and “hostile” to some of the school’s Black students. One such student remembers how he treated her:
“Mr. Ron, Mr. DeSantis, was mean to me and hostile toward me,” said Ms. Pompey, who graduated in 2003. “Not aggressively, but passively, because I was Black.”
She recalled Mr. DeSantis teaching Civil War in a way that sounded to her like an attempt to justify slavery.
“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,” she said. “He was trying to say, ‘It’s not OK to own people, but they had property, businesses.’”
DeSantis’ factually dubious claims about the Civil War — including that every city in the South had burned, prompting one student to point out that her hometown, Savannah, had not — were such that students even made a satirical video about him:
The video, which was reviewed by <em>The Times</em>, includes a short snippet in which a voice purporting to be Mr. DeSantis is heard saying: “The Civil War was not about slavery! It was about two competing economic systems. One was in the North. …” while a student dozes in class. (A student voiced the role of Mr. DeSantis, because students did not have any actual footage of him, according to a student who helped put it together.)
Unsurprisingly, DeSantis also professed his hardline anti-abortion views in class.
Oh, and he reportedly wasn’t above partying with teens:
Several students recalled that Mr. DeSantis was a frequent presence at parties with the seniors who lived in town. Most spoke about socializing with him on the condition of anonymity because they feared backlash for speaking publicly about it.
“As an 18-year-old, I remember thinking, ‘What are you doing here, dude?’” one former student said.
He would also allegedly attend parties with recent graduates. And he had a terrible haircut.
Cut two decades, and not only is DeSantis a governor and presidential hopeful, but a guy who still bullies students. Sometimes people don’t change.