The face of a local man, who one-year ago was in the news after he accused the right wing for volte-face on bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism during a class he was teaching at St Augustine High School, is back in the news once again — but this time, it’s a mugshot.
The teacher, 50-year-old John Whitner Blackford who lives at St Augustine Beach, has been teaching in St Johns County public schools for 28-years. He was arrested last weekend on November 16th by deputies with the St Johns County sheriff’s office.
Blackford was charged with one-count of driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages, and possession of marijuana, a first-degree misdemeanor. After his first hearing, about 8-hours later, he was released after posting a $1,500 appearance bond. Previous booking records from the St Johns County Detention Facility indicate that Blackford was arrested and released in 1994 after officers with the St Augustine Police Department charged him with one-count of misdemeanor criminal mischief.
Although some of his high school students are fond of Blackford, that is not universally true among all the students or their parents. In October 2018, the parents of one St Augustine High School junior told Historic City News that their son was the target of hazing from members of his class as well as his language arts teacher. Blackford was at the middle of a flap over a politically charged question on a vocabulary test given at the public-school.
“A public-school teacher who we pay $61,000 a year made a poor decision — and now my son and some of his friends are paying for it,” the student’s father told local reporters. “I understand that some of them want to fight him because they had to retake a completely new test today with all new questions.”
Some students describe Blackford as a “hippie” on websites where you rate your teacher and some mention that Blackford is a “surfer”. He also uses some rather vulgar language for a language teacher about our 45th President. Hashtags like #FUCKTRUMP were found on the teacher’s social media accounts.
In the teacher’s original fill-in-the-blank test, question seven read:
“Right when it appeared the nation was becoming increasingly tolerant of alternative lifestyles, immigration, and minorities, the vocal and angry right wing forced the nation to make a complete (“volte-face”), embracing bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism.”
Several students in the class began talking about the way Blackford worded question seven. One student used his cellphone to send a snapshot of the test to his mother.
After the complaint, it became clear that Blackford did not like it when a student criticized his choice of words on a vocabulary exam, regardless of their inappropriate use. According to one student, Blackford became increasingly sarcastic towards him after the classroom incident. When Blackford announced that the original test was “thrown out” and that a new test was being given that day, he first told the class that they had to take the test over “because someone cheated”. Later he sarcastically said it was because someone was “too sensitive”.
One parent told us that this was typical of the “passive-aggressive” behavior Blackford directs toward students who disagree with him.
Another example occurred that day when Blackford’s class finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. At the conclusion, Blackford remarked, “Frankenstein was a monster.” Then, being insolent, he retracted and said, “No, no I’m not going to call him a monster, he was a creation and so he had a creator.” Then to exaggerate the point even further, Blackford retracted again and said, “But I can’t really call Frankenstein his creator because that might offend Christians.”