‘Indoctrination’ in education: St. Johns County School Board candidates split on controversial theory

Voters in St. Johns County will choose between two school board candidates who are in a Nov. 8 runoff for the county’s first district seat.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Voters in St. Johns County will choose between two school board candidates who are in a Nov. 8 runoff for the county’s first district seat.

Incumbent Beverly Slough has served the last 20 years on the board. She’s up against newcomer Racheal Hand, who has the backing of the conservative group Moms For Liberty.

“Education, not indoctrination” has been a catchphrase of school board candidates in the state handpicked by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

On her website, Racheal Hand, who is endorsed by the conservative political organization Moms For Liberty, explains that she got into the race because, although St. Johns County schools are some of the highest rated in the state, she writes: “...with its rapid growth and ideological infiltration of unproductive curriculum, it will quickly go down in ratings if we do not intercede with what is inevitably to come.”

It’s a message that has resonated with some constituents but confused others — like Candace Hurman. She has children who have been students in the district for 10 years.

“My simple question is: What ideologies? That’s all I’m asking is, “What ideologies is she seeing that she’s trying to fight against?” Hurman asked. “My kids have been to two elementary schools, a K-8, and now a high school.”

When Hurman asked Hand about it on Facebook, she said, she was immediately blocked. But Hand agreed to speak with News4JAX — and we asked her.

“It’s the supplemental curriculum. So, it’s what a teacher is allowed to bring in. It’s not as at a grade level, it’s just in pertaining to their individual class. So sometimes, they make it a part of the curriculum, and, again, parents are not aware or not even the district is aware,” Hand said.

Click below for full, uncut interview with Racheal Hand

Hand explained that while she hasn’t seen any widespread problems, she said she’s heard about isolated cases from various parents around the district.

Michelle Dillon, who heads the St. Johns Education Association, released a statement in response that reads in part:

“I am concerned that a candidate for school board doesn’t know that all curriculum is vetted and recommended by the Florida Department of Education.”

Hand said her concern is what she referred to as “supplemental material,” or classroom material that’s outside the state-approved curriculum.

“Our paid curriculum currently is not much of a concern now because of the law passed by our governor this year. That’s why this is a “non-issue,” Hand said. “Now, the concern is the supplemental material.”

Beverly Slough, a long-time conservative voice on the board, pushed back on the threat of indoctrination in St. Johns County.

“St. Johns County schools focus on teaching our children to read, write, do math, and understand history and civics,” Slough wrote in a message to News4JAX. “You need look no farther than our scores and our number one standing in the state academically for the past 14 years to understand where we put our priority in the classroom and what we have deposited in our children.”

When News4JAX asked Hand about specific ideologies, she pointed to discussions about gender identity, which are strictly limited under a new controversial state law. She said parents should not have to be forced to have a conversation with their children that they don’t want to have.

“Those are conversations that we never had before and years prior, these are all conversations that parents are being forced to have because of the exposure that is happening,” Hand said.

News4JAX requested comment from Slough. She said she too is against what she sees as indoctrination in public schools, but she said it’s not happening in St. Johns County and she’s not concerned about it happening here.


About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.