Education First for Newberry leader arrested for lewd behavior, luring a minor

Education First for Newberry spokesperson Joel Searby was arrested Thursday on counts of lewd and lascivious behavior and luring a minor.
Education First for Newberry spokesperson Joel Searby was arrested Thursday on counts of lewd and lascivious behavior and luring a minor.
Photo by Glory Reitz

Education First for Newberry’s (EFN) spokesperson Joel Searby was arrested on Thursday and charged with multiple counts of inappropriate contact with a minor.  

Searby, 43, was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, obscene communication to lure a minor, obscene communication to travel to meet and lure a minor and using a two-way communication device.  

According to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrest report, an investigation started Wednesday regarding a 15-year-old boy who received multiple Snapchat messages from the suspect that were sexual in nature and solicited the victim for photos and sexual acts. The victim received a Snapchat request showing that the suspect was Searby, the report said. 

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The report detailed a conversation between the suspect and the victim that contained sexually explicit language as Searby detailed his sexual encounters with an older man during his teenage years.  

“Would you ever do something like that?” Searby asked the teen.  

Searby, who sent multiple photos of himself to the victim, also set up a time to meet with the victim on Thursday morning at Searby’s guest house and, according to the report, told the victim “that he could send a text asking to come to move limbs or another job around the house so that he could have an excuse with his parents to come over.” 

Joel Searby
Alachua County Jail Joel Searby

On Thursday, law enforcement took over the Snapchat conversation from the victim’s account. Searby then sent a text message to the victim’s phone that said: “Hey bud hope all is well! Are you able to come help me this morning by chance/ Have some things to move and a couple big limbs and need a hand. Let me know. Thanks! Would probably take an hour or a little more.” 

Law enforcement confirmed that Searby was the one sending the Snapchat messages, which included photos showing himself shirtless and with his hand down his pants.  

At 9:45 a.m., the report said, Searby sent a message to the victim’s Snapchat account that said, “Heyyy. So I’ll be ready early if you can come over in like 15-20min…” 

Law enforcement replied to Searby’s message pretending to be the victim and obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s residence at 3824 SW 170th St. Officers took Searby into custody and transported him to the Alachua County Jail, where he was held on no bond. 

Searby, an Illinois native, lives in Archer with his wife and children. According to his LinkedIn page, he has worked in politics for 17 years. 

Over the past few months, Searby was part of the push to convert the Newberry public schools into charter schools. EFN held its initial press conference in February when it campaigned for parent and teacher votes to proceed with the charter school transition. While the Newberry High School and Oak View Middle School votes failed, the city of Newberry and EFN claimed victory in the Newberry Elementary School vote and started the charter school conversion.  

On Thursday evening, EFN posted a statement to social media disassociating itself from Searby.  
“Education First for Newberry, Inc. is deeply troubled by the arrest of Joel Searby,” the post said. “The allegations against him are gravely serious and contrary to our core values as an organization. We immediately severed all ties with him upon learning of this incident. We will fully cooperate with law enforcement and be of any assistance we can during this difficult time. The safety of our children is and will always be our #1 priority.” 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with details of the arrest report.

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You can’t make this stuff up.


Sounds like a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing situation. Sad.

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter

So THAT is what’s behind all the”Education First for Newberry”/”Springs County”/anti-GRU/anti-Gainesville City Commission trash talk that floats around like a bad smell?!? I’ve always suspected that something bad was going on . . .

Real Newberry Citizen and Voter

Don’t put everyone in that same bucket, Keyboard Warrior. Some of us grew up in Gainesville and see how trashy it has become.

I hope for healing for the victims and their families. This is just plain horrifying.

Educate your kids on internet safety, please 🙏


Admittedly it makes the organization look bad but this was a misguided criminal person that did this. Thank god they severed ties immediately as they should. The Charter process was well designed but he has tarnished the members abd the entire process. 3 stepd forward – 2 steps back. sad.