With 3 teachers under investigation, former student, staff call for closer look at Douglas Anderson’s culture

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Current and former students and teachers at Douglas Anderson School for the Arts are asking for an independent investigation as three teachers are currently under investigation by the school board.

Jeffrey Clayton is charged with lewd conduct involving a student and Kerry Burke-McCloud was reassigned as they investigate. A third unnamed teacher has also been removed from the classroom.

MORE: Duval County school police arrest music teacher accused of lewd conduct involving student

At a Duval County Public Schools board meeting Tuesday night, several speakers said a culture of complicity allowed inappropriate conduct to continue for decades.

Those public comments were in line with what News4JAX has been hearing from people reaching out including former students, a parent and a teacher. They said Clayton made teen girls uncomfortable with inappropriate comments and sabotaged co-workers but he was never held accountable. Clayton was a vocal director at Douglas Anderson for more than two decades.

Jeffrey Clayton booking photo provided by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. (News4JAX.com)

At the meeting Tuesday night, the board and its attorney wouldn’t name Clayton directly and didn’t let others say his name either citing an ongoing investigation, but it was clear who they were talking about.

The attorney said Clayton has been referred to state authorities who have the power to revoke his teaching license and retirement benefits if they find it appropriate.

According to the warrant for Clayton’s arrest, he told a student he had romantic and intoxicating feelings for her, rubbed her thighs and kissed her.

Since then, another teacher has also been removed from the classroom as Douglas Anderson as the district looks into allegations against him.

Former teachers and students said leadership at the school didn’t do anything about Clayton for years, despite multiple complaints.

“I reported him many times for toxic environment, for an unsafe environment in a classroom. Parents reported him. Not to one principal, but to two,” said Dina Barone, a former Douglas Anderson teacher.

Barone is demanding an independent investigation.

Shyla Jenkins is a graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

“Decades of letters, parents, teachers, former administrators have come forward and said there was a problem and they were met with dismissals and silence for years,” Jenkins said.

Rhianna Polhammer said she was 15 when she went to her vocal teacher for help. She remembers he shut the door and closed the blinds and told her how attractive she had become.

“I knew then that he wouldn’t help me. I felt very alone. I stopped caring about singing that day,” Polhammer said.

She said she didn’t report him because she didn’t think she’d be believed.

“He had more power than I did,” she said.

Former Douglas Anderson teacher Jack Leon said he thinks Clayton’s musical “expertise” allowed him leeway.

“I was told “that’s just who he is,’” Leon said.

Duval Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene has previously said its investigations can span weeks or months.

Clayton has since retired as he was facing likely termination.

News4JAX reached out to DCPS for comment and are still waiting to hear back.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter