JSO officer, ex-coach arrested in high school sex case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first of what could be several arrests of high school employees for having sex with students at Westside High took place Friday morning after the former football coach, Clarence Thomas Jr., was fired from his job after investigators found that he had sex with a 17-year-old student.

He has now been arrested on sex charges and suspended from his job as a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office corrections officer.

Thomas, 24, was one of three Westside High employees who were investigated when a former teacher told authorities in April that the three men were having inappropriate relationships with students.

Undersheriff Pat Ivey announced Friday morning that Thomas was investigated by the JSO Integrity Unit. Ivey said the female victim, who has since turned 18, gave a sworn statement to the State Attorney's Office Thursday, and an arrest warrant was obtained. Thomas turned himself in on Friday morning on a charge of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

Police said Thomas bonded out of jail within hours. Because he was an employee of law enforcement, under state law, his booking photo does not have to be released.

Thomas, who had worked for JSO for 4½ years, has resigned. 

"You've not got understand, he's not a policeman, but he still takes an oath," Ivey said. "He's an employee of the Sheriff's Office, and he should have a certain level of integrity."

Thomas was fired earlier this year by the Duval County School District.

The former dean of students, Ernest Timmons, and teacher Kenneth Anderson Jr. resigned after a Duval County School District investigation the began in April substantiated that the two had sex with students.

The Florida Department of Children and Families and JSO were conducting their own investigations into the incidents. Ivey was asked and said the other two cases were still under investigation, but no other arrests were made.

Earlier this week, School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the investigation into these three cases is just beginning, and he wants to know who else knew about the incidents and who else might be involved. 

"Without question, each of these individuals violated the trust that the community has with teachers and with the school district in general, and the trust that students have with teachers," Vitti said. "We are still investigating at the school level regarding whether additional employees knew of the inappropriate relationship and failed to report it."

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Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.