Alumni of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts have been alleging that Duval school district administration was aware of misconduct by voice teacher Jeffrey Clayton years before his recent arrest on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a student. New employment records obtained by Jacksonville Today substantiate their claims.
Since 2006, Duval Schools’ office of professional standards opened nine separate investigations into Clayton related to misconduct allegations. Eight of the investigations were related to misconduct with students, and the district’s investigations found that two were “unsubstantiated.” A ninth claim was related to Clayton’s not wearing a mask during COVID-19.
Clayton received verbal and written warnings over the years — and was pulled from teaching for a few days in 2013, according to the district — but remained at the school until he was arrested and resigned last month.
The Florida Department of Education chastised Duval Schools on Wednesday for failing to properly report a 2021 incident, in which Clayton “placed his arm on the shoulder of a student, rubbed her back and told her she was beautiful,” according to the state’s letter.
The district had substantiated the allegation, but there was no record of it under the state’s mandatory School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting system, according to the state’s education vice chancellor, Scott Strauss. A grand jury report last fall accused Duval Schools of failing to report more than 500 student crimes to this system as well.
“Please explain why and what actions the District is taking to ensure that all SESIR incidents are reported appropriately,” Strauss wrote to Duval superintendent Diana Greene Wednesday.
The district says that it filed the incident with the state’s office of professional practices but that the state is referring to a separate reporting process.
“We are looking into the matter, and we will respond” within the state’s five-day deadline, the district wrote in an email to Jacksonville Today.
The following timeline details the nine investigations into misconduct allegations against Clayton, according to the district’s professional standards case logs obtained by Jacksonville Today.
After the release of the records Thursday afternoon, Duval County School Board Chair Kelly Coker said, “I’m appalled to know that district leadership was aware of this teacher’s behavior as recently as 2021. While we have begun the process of hiring external legal counsel to investigate the Clayton incident, I am convening a meeting of the School Board for next week.”
A timeline of misconduct investigations
January 2006: Then-Douglas Anderson Principal Jackie Cornelius sent Clayton a written reprimand after he was seen conducting a private lesson with a student in his office on a teacher planning day. The memo states, “On more than one occasion, Ms. Cornelius has discussed with you the tutoring of students for personal gain and the use of School Board property.” According to her memo, this was Clayton’s second reprimand for violating district policy about tutoring for pay on school property. The first was verbal.
March 2008: Clayton was advised against talking to, making contact, approaching or confronting a male student, according district discipline logs. The recommendation came after a parent raised concerns that Clayton “singled out” the student, “made a point to sit directly behind him in the theater” and “made comments indirectly” about him.
December 2008: Clayton received and signed a formal warning about failing to “exercise best professional judgment.” The warning lists multiple actions including: “closing the door of your office during student/teacher meetings,” “inviting the student to lunch,” “suggesting that the student might want to work out at a neighborhood gym,” and “pulling the student out of academic classes to check up on the student’s progress.”
January 2013: Clayton was placed on a “short disciplinary reassignment from Jan. 17 – 23, 2013, but the district’s investigation log from these dates is marked “not substantiated.”
Local attorney Tad Delegal wrote a four-page letter to the district’s office of professional standards in February 2013, defending Clayton’s behavior with students. “Mr. Clayton explained that he must sometimes use physical direction with his students, much the same way a coach assists students,” Delegal wrote. He also asked the office of professional standards to “consider Mr. Clayton’s numerous awards and accolades, some of which bring national recognition to both Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and the Jacksonville community.”
November 2016: Then-principal Cornelius gave Clayton a “verbal reprimand” after a student told the dean of students that Clayton “strokes her on the back at times making her feel awkward” and said to her, “You look so beautiful today” and asked other students, “Doesn’t she look beautiful?”
October 2020: Clayton received a verbal warning after an administrator received three emails about his not wearing a face mask in class during the COVID-19 pandemic.
November 2021: The district’s office of professional standards filed a formal educator misconduct reporting form with the state after it substantiated allegations that Clayton “engaged in inappropriate physical contact with and/or in the presence of a student when he placed his arm around the shoulder of the student, rubbed her back and told her she was beautiful.”
In an interview with district officials, the student also stated that Clayton is “preoccupied with looking at her chest … as a result she has adjusted to wearing baggy shirts and sweatshirts when she goes to class.”
May 2022: A student reported inappropriate behavior during private vocal lessons at Clayton’s house two years prior, but “based on the information provided and the timing of the disclosure this allegation will be closed as not substantiated,” the district investigator wrote in the case files.
March 2023: Jeffrey Clayton was arrested for lewd and lascivious conduct. The state of Florida has since brought four charges against Clayton including soliciting or engaging in sexual conduct with a student, soliciting or engaging in a relationship of a romantic nature with a student, touching a person aged 16 or 17 in a lewd or lascivious manner and using a two-way wireless communications device to facilitate a felony offense. An arrest warrant revealed about 1,700 text messages between Clayton and the student.
The district’s internal professional practices investigation into this incident remains open. Duval Schools has asked anyone who would like to assist with its investigation to contact the district’s head of professional standards, Tameiko Grant, at GrantT1@duvalschools.org.
Attorneys who are representing families who are considering suing the school district are also investigating incidents at Douglas Anderson. They include Morgan and Morgan and McGrath Gibson Law, which set up a dedicated tip line at DA@learnyourrights.com.
The Duval County School Board is also planning to hire outside legal counsel for an independent investigation into possible “systemic” problems.