Several former and current Douglas Anderson School of the Arts students and staff went to a DCPS board meeting raising concerns they’ve had with faculty at the high school in the past; they’re demanding transparency and accountability.
It comes after three teachers were removed from the classroom in recent months, including one teacher arrested last month for lewd conduct with a student. The two other teachers were reassigned out of the classroom with no student contact.
The former students also brought letters from other former students who couldn’t show up, which described their experience at the school and with Jeffrey Clayton, the teacher who was arrested. They gave the letters to the board and general counsel, the board isn’t speaking too much saying they don’t want to interfere with the ongoing investigation, but general counsel did address the situation at the meeting.
Former students went up one-by-one during public comment.
“This may have happened because of the actions of one man but it also happened because of the inaction of many people,” one former student said in the meeting.
Shyla Jenkins spoke to Action News Jax and in public comment, she described the culture at the school as toxic for decades and want an independent investigation.
“We’re tired of the lack of transparency we’re tired of the toxic culture that is being considered art to suffer for and suffer through,” she said.
The school’s former long time vocal department chair, Jeffrey Clayton, was arrested on felony charges of an authority figure soliciting or engaging in lewd conduct with a student and unlawful use of two-way communication device. DCPS has since opened up a more comprehensive investigation after hearing of other allegations and reports.
DCPS general counsel addressed the ongoing investigation, saying they’ve had several meetings and phone calls about this and are concerned.
“A report has been made to the Florida Department of Education, the office of professional practices, about this individual,” J. Ray Poole, Chief Legal Counsel for the school said.
Jenkins claims there’s also a bigger issue.
“Former students have complained over the years, parents have written letters over the decades bringing it to former and current administrators’ attention and nothing happened. They were met with silence or they were dismissed,” she said.
Former Douglas Anderson teacher, Dina Barone even spoke to the board.
“I reported him many times for toxic environment for unsafe environment in the classroom. Parents reported him, not to one principal but to two, somewhere there’s a disconnect between the principals reporting to you” she said. “You have failed those children, you have failed the people that have worked in the toxic environment with him.”
About a week after Clayton’s arrest, another Douglas Anderson teacher was reassigned to duties off school grounds and without student contact. DCPS has since confirmed a third teacher was removed; the details of both cases have not been made public, so the nature of what happened is not known.
“We are asking for transparency we are asking those who are responsible for covering up this behavior and allowed it to continue this long to be held responsible,” Jenkins said.
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DCPS reiterated what Superintendent Dr. Diana Green said in her message last week, saying the investigation could take weeks to months, adding they want to get it right. Action News Jax did ask about what former students have called a cover up, we’re told that is also being investigated.