JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts student is coming forward in an investigation into a teacher who is accused of acting inappropriately.
Dean Symmonds, who graduated from D.A. in 2015, now lives in another state, and agreed to speak with Action News Jax Investigator Ben Becker by phone about Corey Thayer, the Cinematic Arts chair at the school.
Action News Jax first reported that Thayer was removed from the classroom on Sept. 5 for the second time in six months because of questionable behavior.
“The district has become aware of additional information related to employee investigation involving alleged misconduct occurring in 2013-2014 by Douglas Anderson teacher Corey Thayer. As a result, he will be removed from contact with students and assigned to Bulls Bay pending the outcome of the investigation,” interim Duval County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar said in an email to school board members obtained by Becker.
“Do you think he crossed the line at any point?” Becker asked. “I do,” said Symmonds, who said he was interviewed by the school district in August after writing a letter outlining accusations of being “groomed” as well as “full-body, chest-to-chest embraces” by Thayer.
Symmonds also alleged Thayer told him, “I love you” and “flirted” and “texted” him lyrics to love songs.
“The actual song would be a love song or something about yearning, something about wanting to have sex with someone that you can’t have sex with,” Symmonds told Becker. “The main feature of our relationship was inappropriate emotional intimacy.”
Another former student claims they were inappropriately touched by Thayer, and documents show the district and school police knew about the allegations nearly a decade ago but said “no investigation was conducted by this office.”
In May, the district finally produced an investigation into Thayer and concluded the “evidence does not support the allegation that you engaged in inappropriate physical contact with current students and/or inappropriate communications with current students.”
However, the district did cite problematic behaviors including teasing students, meeting privately with students, and playing favorites.
Thayer was among four teachers removed from the classroom last school year.
The issues at Douglas Anderson received intense scrutiny from Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz who wrote a scathing letter to former superintendent Dr. Diana Green in April outlining his “grave concerns” with DCPS’ lack of reporting of teacher misconduct.
As for Symmonds, he wants more answers about why Thayer was allowed to return to Douglas Anderson.
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“Having him come back without a word, I’m just imagining the students there being confused,” Symmonds said. “Thinking the administration doesn’t actually care and that there are no consequences.”
Numerous students did write letters of support for Thayer during the DCPS investigation released in May.
Becker tried calling and texting Thayer, but has not heard back.