Allegations from nearly 10 years ago led to the removal of Douglas Anderson department chair for second time

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DA) teacher accused of inappropriate conduct this spring was placed back in the classroom at the start of this school year only to be removed again a few weeks later.

Documents obtained by the I-TEAM show why.

Documents reveal cinematic arts department chair Corey Thayer was cleared by the school district in May of allegations regarding current students. But the most serious allegations came from former students, and after backlash, Thayer is being investigated once again.

RELATED: Letter from Douglas Anderson alumni asks that investigation look into possible financial links to teacher misconduct

Stakeholders are angry with how the school district is following up on their pledge to investigate allegations of misconduct at Douglas Anderson.

One former student said on Monday that Thayer “groomed” them throughout their senior year and, although it wasn’t physical, the psychological damage was real.

Records from Duval County Public Schools show Thayer’s removal from the classroom at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts this spring was prompted by an email from a former student sent March 28, 2023, alleging “inappropriate communication.”

Thayer was removed from the classroom as the district investigated. Records show the Office of Professional Standards received 11 additional emails about Thayer from DA students, parents, and graduates. Six of them were in his support, including one signed by half a dozen DA seniors.

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In another email, the parent of a former student alleged Thayer had touched their daughter inappropriately nearly 10 years ago. Records show an investigation from around that time conducted by Duval County Schools police was closed without finding evidence of wrongdoing.

Around the time of the investigation this spring, several former students wrote letters to the school board regarding teachers at DA, including Thayer. One of those students, Dean Symmonds, wrote about being “groomed” by Thayer as a senior in 2014 and 2015.

“I definitely felt like he was flirting with me. Especially over text,” Symmonds said.

Symmonds said Thayer sent lyrics from sexual songs and gave long bear hugs every time they saw each other and that the texts continued for a year or two after graduation.

“I ended up feeling like I had had my senior year of high school just wasted and consumed by this intense secret emotional relationship. And I’d felt like that part of my childhood was entirely gone,” Symmonds said.

The investigative report suggests that neither Symmonds nor the parent who said their child was inappropriately touched were ever contacted as part of the investigation this spring.

But an investigator did interview six randomly selected current female students from each of Thayer’s classes, and all of them said they had never seen Thayer do anything inappropriate, according to the records.

In conclusion, the teacher received a letter warning that his behaviors of teasing students, meeting with them privately and playing favorites could lead to misconduct. However, he was cleared of allegations that he was inappropriate with current students.

“They said that they cared about victims, and they cared about the safety of students, and that’s why they’re going to do the investigations with like, some form of urgency,” Symmonds said. “And then over the summer time, it seemed like nothing much happened. And then he was back in the classroom in August, so to me, that seems like they’re admitting that they, their actions are contradicting their words and what they said their intentions were.”

Thayer reassigned out of the classroom about a week ago ago after Symmonds and the former student who alleged Thayer touched them went to the school district’s attorney and said they would participate in an investigation.

Thayer and school district did not immediately respond to News4JAX requests for comment and questions on Monday.

About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter