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Education Commissioner expresses concerns in letter sent to DCPS about student safety

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Education is once again calling out the Duval County school district. It’s after we learned last month that another teacher from Douglas Anderson School of The Arts was arrested last month, accused of exposing himself in public.

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Today, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent a letter to Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar expressing his concerns about how DCPS is handling student safety.

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In this letter, Diaz details his concerns with the “lack of progress” in prioritizing student safety in Duval County Public Schools.

Diaz said, “it is clear that there is more work that needs to be done in your district.”

He referenced the recent arrest of Christopher Allen-Black -- the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher who was arrested and accused of exposing himself at a hotel near Disney. It happened in February, but he wasn’t removed from the classroom until more than a month later.

RELATED: Douglas Anderson teacher re-assigned, accused of ‘exposure of sexual organs’ in Orange County

Diaz said, “Rather than immediately removing Mr. Allen-Black from direct contact with students, you elected to allow him to remain in the classroom until April 11, 2024. This is unacceptable,”

“It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this point where the DCPS is getting scrutiny from the state, because of just the mishandling of all these investigations and the removal of teachers from the classroom when it comes to student safety,” Douglas Anderson graduate Angel Bautista said.

Bautista graduated from Douglas Anderson in 2016. After learning about the various teacher investigations that began two years ago, they have been advocating for transparency and accountability at school board meetings.

“The fact that it’s been happening for so long, and we still don’t have clarity or closure around any of this is unacceptable,” Bautista said.

This is the fifth time in two years that a teacher has been removed from the school.

READ: Teacher removed from classroom at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts

Action News Jax told you in April 2023, when Commissioner Diaz wrote a scathing letter to Dr. Kriznar’s predecessor, Dr. Diana Greene. That letter said “it was completely unacceptable that DCPS did not promptly report cases...”

Diaz said this prompted the Office of Inspector General to investigate DCPS for their delayed reporting.

In January, OIG released the report and found that DCPS failed to report alleged teacher misconduct to FDLE’s Office of Professional Practices Services.

Last month, Senator Clay Yarborough also expressed concerns about transparency in DCPS.

“DCPS is failing these students,” Bautista said. “I feel bad for the students, because school is supposed to be a place where you feel safe, and teachers are supposed to be those safe people in your life..”

Diaz closed this letter by saying he expects a response from Dr. Kriznar within five days.

Action News Jax has reached out to DCPS for a response, and we are still waiting to hear back.

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