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Jeffrey Clayton interview ahead of sentencing for kissing student

Jeffrey Clayton interview ahead of sentencing for kissing student

  • PublishedJune 14, 2024

Former Douglas Anderson music teacher Jeffrey Clayton answered questions about “the guilt and the shame and regrets” ahead of his sentencing.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former chair of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts vocal department,  Jeffrey Clayton, agreed to an exclusive interview with First Coast News on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, just over a week before his sentencing hearing. 

Clayton, age 66, pleaded guilty to two counts of “offenses against students by authority figures: lewd or lascivious touching of certain minors, and unlawful use of two-way communications device.”

Clayton faces nearly three years to 40 years in Florida State Prison.

According to his arrest report, Clayton inappropriately touched and kissed one of his vocal students, age 16, and the two exchanged some 1700 texts during several months in 2023. The texts include this one from Clayton to the female student: “Your steamy, honey sweet lips drove me crazy, I just had to come up for air.” 

Clayton did his interview with First Coast News from inside his hotel room on the Southside. This transcript has been edited for brevity. 

FCN: We are in a hotel room in Jacksonville. Why is that?

Clayton: “This is where my life is now. And I don’t want anybody to… not a bit of pity for me.  This is just where I’m at right now. I’m in a hotel after spending some time in my car. My journey is, a journey of dismantling my life, as I knew it.”

FCN: How long were you living in your car?

Clayton:  “I was in my car for three months.” (Editor’s note: Clayton says after 32 years of marriage, he is now divorced and spent time homeless. He says a family member is paying for his hotel room now.  He says while he was living in his car he often depended on protein bars because he couldn’t cook and lost some 45-50 pounds.)

FCN asked Clayton about what he wants to say to people he hurt. 

Clayton:  “The guilt and the shame and regrets of causing so many people so much pain….  I stand guilty before my Heavenly Father for being off his path and not following Him. I’ve realized for a long time the pain and suffering of what she could be going through and her family. I own what happened here… I’m not going to walk away from that. I can’t. I wish I could help them walk away from the pain. But I can’t. 

“I have to embrace the fact that this is what I caused. It’s about giving them a chance to heal. I tainted their opinion of teachers, of male teachers, the idea of trust in certain situations. I tainted that. There are consequences to our mistakes and our sins and there’s forgiveness.  There is healing. That’s the only reason I’m speaking because people are going to believe whatever they want to believe at this point through whatever lens they have.”

FCN:  Some believe your arrest was like a bomb that went off. (Editor’s note: Clayton’s arrest set off a firestorm of issues for Duval County Public Schools from parents upset saying their concerns and reports were ignored for way too long to the announcement from Superintendent Dr. Dianna Greene that she would retire and leave her post.)
Do you own any part of that?

Clayton: “Certainly you’d have to put her in that group of people that were hurt and damaged by my actions and fallout from it.”

FCN: Do you feel like you owe her an apology? What would you say?

Clayton: “This is not the venue for me to do that right now. That will be something down the road if that opportunity ever presents itself and it seems to be the thing to do.” 

FCN: Did anybody from the administration or a principal ever come to you and say, “Mr. Clayton, we’ve had concerns about your behavior” and try to stop it?

Clayton:  “I’m not going to comment on that at this point because that’s not something –that’s not what I’m here to speak about.”  

Clayton: “Again…not about my career. That went away like that (raises his hand in the air). What won’t go away is the life-long impact this will have on people.”

What would he say to his past students? 

“I want to say to those students, I apologize for anything in my actions that would have caused you to ever feel unsafe, that I didn’t care about you, and that even now I don’t care about how you feel.  I do care about how you feel.”

FCN: Do you think people are going to believe that?

Clayton: “You know, time is going to be the only thing that allows some people to believe and some will never believe.”

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