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Leon County Democratic Superintendent candidates talk personal beliefs

A man in a suit and a woman in a jacket sit at a table behind a pair of microphones.
Lydell Rawls
WFSU Public Media
Rocky Hanna and Star Swain participated in a candidate forum hosted by WFSU, The League of Women Voters and The Tallahassee Democrat.

What happens when a teachers’ personal opinions enter the classroom? Leon County’s Democratic superintendent candidates weighed in on that question Thursday during a forum hosted by the Tallahassee Democrat, the League of Women Voters and WFSU.

Elementary School Principal, Star Swain, says teachers should keep their personal beliefs to themselves.

“We’re not there to influence our students or families one way or the other,” Swain said. “We’re there to teach and make sure that our students are learning.”

But incumbent superintendent Rocky Hanna said teachers shouldn’t have to feel like they’re walking on eggshells and added that they have his support.

“Do not for one minute think you have to measure everything that comes out of your mouth” Hanna said. “Do your job—the professionals that you are. We know our teachers are not grooming and indoctrinating children. They simply wake up each and every day to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Hanna was the subject of an investigation last year after a member of the local Moms for Liberty group accused Hanna of making “politically charged statements.” The complaint referenced a memo Hanna wrote to teachers ahead of the 2022 school year. He told them “you do you” and stated that the district would defend them should they run afoul of state laws placing restrictions on how aspects of race, history and sexuality are discussed and taught in public school classrooms.

To end the investigation, Hanna agreed to a settlement, which includes a two-year probation.

During the forum Thursday Hanna stood by his actions that led to the condemnation and Swain said she doesn’t see the probation as a problem.

“We have to look at the reasons why and maybe had had certain convictions that caused him to stand for that. So, I’m not against it because I think in that position I might have done the same thing,” Swain said.

Hanna’s probation technically only applies if he has a job that requires a teaching license. No such license is needed as superintendent.

Swain and Hanna are both running as Democrats and will face off in the primary. The winner will take on high school Principal Joe Burgess who is running with no party affiliation.


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Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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