Former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher Jeffrey Clayton pleaded guilty to four counts on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. | Will Brown, Jacksonville TodayFormer Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher Jeffrey Clayton pleaded guilty to four counts on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today
Former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher Jeffrey Clayton pleaded guilty to four counts on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Former Douglas Anderson teacher pleads guilty

Published on April 24, 2024 at 1:36 pm

A former vocal teacher at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts pleaded guilty Wednesday to inappropriate behavior with a student, the first of a series of complaints against the school’s teachers.

Jeffrey Clayton, 66, pleaded guilty Wednesday to all four charges against him. They include two counts of offenses against students by authority figures, indecent lewd or lascivious touching of minors and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.

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Clayton faces between 33½ months and 40 years in prison. He will be sentenced June 14. Victims will have the chance to recall their encounters with Clayton before Circuit Judge Tatiana Salvador sentences him.

As part of Clayton’s plea, the state agreed to not file additional charges. 

The longtime educator was arrested on the public school campus in the Spring Park neighborhood in March 2023 after accusations of an inappropriate relationship with a student. He retired shortly after his arrest.

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Prosecutors allege that on March 17, 2023, Clayton held a one-on-one singing lesson with a Douglas Anderson student. He was accused of uttering romantic feelings toward the teenager, rubbing her thighs and attempting to kiss her.

Wednesday morning, Clayton sat alone in the second row of Courtroom No. 307 in a navy blazer, white shirt, crucifix necklace and gray slacks. He occasionally rocked his body as he waited for Salvador to enter the courtroom.

Once she did, Clayton did not say much beyond “yes” and “no” answers.

He stood with his hands clasped as Salvador explained the charges.

“So, is it your understanding that today you are entering pleas of guilty to the four different counts with which are charged in case No. 2023-CF3145?” Salvador asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Clayton replied.

Jeffrey Clayton, a former teacher at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, pleaded guilty to two counts of offenses against students by authority figures, indecent lewd or lascivious touching of certain minors and unlawful use of a two-way communication device on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Shyla Jenkins was a junior at Douglas Anderson when Clayton was hired. She was a student of his who has been outspoken about the former teacher’s facing consequences for his actions.

“It was interesting the emotions that hit me,” said Jenkins, a 2002 Douglas Anderson alumna. “For me, it’s a relief. It’s kind of irritating that he’s not going to go to trial and be charged and go through this public admittance of what he did. At the same time, it protects the victims of this. They don’t have to relive the crimes. They don’t have to be victimized again and publicly be named. That’s a mercy in all of this.”

Jenkins said she would like to see Clayton receive the maximum sentence this summer.

Clayton’s arrest, along with other teachers’ removals, led to the early retirement of then-Superintendent Diana Greene last year.

“Our first thoughts are for the students whose lives were impacted by Mr. Clayton’s actions,” Duval County Public Schools wrote in a statement.  “We hope that this result contributes to their ability to find healing from those experiences. “

The school district also announced that it intends to implement safeguards for students and schools before Interim Superintendent Dana Kriznar finishes her tenure.

The Duval County School Board selected six semifinalists for its superintendent position on Tuesday. The board expects the new superintendent to begin in July.

Last April, Duval County Public Schools hired a Fort Lauderdale-based law firm to investigate how students were vulnerable at Douglas Anderson. Results of that investigation have not been made public.

Since the School Board started its investigation, four other Douglas Anderson teachers have been removed from classrooms.

  • Corey Thayer was removed in 2023 after accusations of inappropriate touching.
  • Chris Allen-Black was arrested Feb. 24 on a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure, accused of masturbating in front of an open window at Walt Disney World. Allen-Black was not removed from the classroom until this month.
  • Two other unidentified teachers have been removed as well.

During a School Board meeting April 2, board Chairman Darryl Willie said all seven board members have individually received an update on the investigation.

“We have been advised to not share any of the information from that briefing with the public at this time because of ongoing litigation,” Willie said. “As part of that briefing we did hear about some suggestions and changes and improvements. The district as well as (the Office of General Counsel) are working together to review and implement those appropriate changes.”

Jenkins said she appreciates the acknowledgement that there was some headway in the district’s investigation. She would like to see additional transparency from the school district about the investigation and how the district will determine student safeguards.

“D.A. is greater than this,” Jenkins said. “It’s an amazing school. The students that are there now, the students that have graduated from there, don’t deserve this reputation and don’t deserve their legacy to be tarnished by teachers like this. So much of the goodness of D.A. and so much of the hard work of the students has been tarnished by this because of poor choices by former principals, district administrators and their lack of judgment.”


author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.
author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.

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