After college and before law school, Ron DeSantis spent a year teaching history at a high school in Georgia. According to a source with close knowledge of the matter, during that time he was photographed partying with underaged students.A 2001 newsletter from Darlington School in Georgia announces DeSantis’s hiring.
Ron DeSantis is joining the Upper School history department. DeSantis earned bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from Yale University, New Haven, Conn. While at Yale, he worked for the political science department, the athletic department, and the university sports camp. He has work experience with the Sonic Corporation and the office of Senator Connie Mack.
Darlington is a boarding and day school, for grades Pre-K through 12. In 2001, when DeSantis joined the staff of the high school, he’d have been in his twenties, with college and work in politics already under his proverbial belt. His students would have been high school co-eds, teenagers, some of whom would have been living on-campus. According to our whistleblower, he had a reputation among students for being a young “hot teacher” who girls loved, and the girls in the photo are believed to have graduated in 2002, making them seniors at the time.
The photo shows a person purported to be DeSantis, in a group embrace with several young girls, one of whom is holding what appears to be a glass beer bottle. The source who provided the photo says that it was taken prior to graduation — meaning the young girls would still have been DeSantis’ responsibility at the time. It is not clear whether any of them were legal adults, though they would have been too young to purchase alcohol.
A yearbook image shows DeSantis in the year that he worked for Darlington School, with the same bowl cut and wide grin featured in the photo.
Though DeSantis would have been only about five years older than some high school seniors, the five years between a high schooler and a college graduate denote a significant experience gap, especially alongside the fact that DeSantis would have been in a position of authority over the students. He had also already, by the school’s own description, worked in a political office, giving him ample opportunity to be fully aware of the optics and risks of being associated with controversial behavior, such as proximity to underage drinking.
After only a year teaching at the school, DeSantis left and went on to Harvard Law School, military service, and a political career. Though he says he’s not planning to run, a potential presidential campaign has been a subject of much speculation.
The allegation surfaces at a time when Florida politicians and their links to underage girls are already a subject of scrutiny. The Orlando Sentinel earlier this year contemplated the possibility that DeSantis’ close ties to Representative Matt Gaetz, which is described as having previously been advantageous, could become a liability now that Gaetz has been associated with a child sex trafficking case.
Still, the investigation may be moving uncomfortably close to the governor’s office. Besides Gaetz himself, the influential Florida political figures under federal scrutiny include Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and DeSantis campaign donor, and DeSantis’ political appointee Halsey Beshears, the state’s former top business regulator.
(Gaetz has denied allegations and has not been charged, but the associate whose involvement led to the investigation has pled guilty and is cooperating with investigators, and Gaetz is reportedly preparing a legal team for his own defense.)
As for DeSantis, he’s already walking a fine line politically as he tries to maintain lockstep with the former president, which has most recently meant a series of controversial moves in an attempt to prevent schools from mandating COVID-19 precautions for students, and hints that he’s considering further orders that would limit the ability of employers to mandate precautions for the workplace.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com