Mon, Jul 15, 2024
Douglas Anderson choir teacher Jeffrey Clayton sentenced

Douglas Anderson choir teacher Jeffrey Clayton sentenced

  • PublishedJune 14, 2024

Two months after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct with a student, former Duval County teacher Jeffrey Clayton has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — A Duval County judge sentenced Jeffrey Clayton to 10 years in prison for charges related to touching and kissing a teen student while a teacher at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. 

The sentencing was handed down by Judge Tatiana Salvador after almost three hours of a sentencing hearing where the victim and three of his former students spoke out about their experiences with the former teacher. Clayton also received three years of probation.

Salvador said every case is different and every person is different. She referenced Clayton’s previous warnings and said Clayton committed a “tremendous breach of trust.”

“You knew better … that this kind of touching and stroking was inappropriate,” Salvador said.

Clayton, 66, pleaded guilty to charges of indecent, lewd, or lascivious touching of certain minors, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and two counts of offenses against students by authority figures. He was facing a prison sentence up to 40 years.

On Friday, Clayton apologized and said he “left the path of purpose and integrity.” He said he became the center of attention and will work for the rest of his life to deal with his crimes. He apologized to Douglas Anderson staff and students. He asked to be forgiven for his actions.

To the victim and her family, Clayton said he “blew up” their lives and crossed a “sacred line.” Clayton has since attended 101 mental health sessions, his attorney said.

“I’m so sorry for the pain and damage I caused you … She deserved none of this,” Clayton said.

Clayton said he was glad his parents did not live to see his crimes; they died about six months prior to his arrest, he said. Clayton said everything he lost “pales in comparison” to the bigger picture. He said he lost his marriage and credibility with his family. Clayton asked for a fair sentence.

After Clayton’s testimony, the courtroom heard from Duval County Police Department Detective Carl Graham, who confirmed the recorded phone conversation, and number of text messages, between Clayton and the victim. It was then played before the court. Clayton repeatedly shook his head as the recording played.

In the call, Clayton acknowledges the risk of pursuing a relationship further, calling their involvement “scary.” The call then turns sexually explicit in nature. Salvador later said the call made her embarrassed and called it “creepy.”

Clayton is not criminally charged against the other students who testified. 

The first former student said Clayton is in her nightmares, has largely impacted her life and that Clayton’s actions were “criminal and creepy.”

The next witness said she wish she could go back in time and not take a class with Clayton. She said students urged her not to because of Clayton and later dreaded his one-on-one lessons. She felt Clayton was treated well by the administration and staff and his actions were “swept under the rug.”

The final witness said she submitted a report about Clayton’s “touching and comments” and no action was taken. She called Clayton a “master manipulator.” She said she felt shame and rage when Clayton was arrested, and that it never should have gotten to that point.

“You all know the power of a teacher,” she said.

The victim said she was not aware she was being sexually groomed at the time. She referred to Clayton’s behaviors as “atrocities.” 

The defense referenced several similar cases with lesser sentences, read letters positive toward Clayton from former friends and colleagues, and sought to establish what kind of relationship Clayton had with the victim.

Assistant District Attorney Anna Hixon said Clayton didn’t make a mistake, he made a choice. She referred to Clayton’s behavior as “grooming.” She called the victim a child and said Clayton’s texts showed he knew it was wrong. She recommended 15 years in prison with 15 years probation.

“This defendant knew he was in the wrong. This is not an isolated incident, this is not a first time offense,” Hixon said.

What happened?

A choir teacher of more than 20 years, Clayton was arrested in March 2023 after a teenage student showed the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office screenshots of around 1,700 texts between the two.

The texts between the two range from conversations about movies to Clayton telling the teen he loved her. In one message released by investigators, Clayton requested the student send photos of her nails and feet after a trip to the salon. In another, Clayton reminds her to continue deleting their text thread.

On March 17, 2023, the student’s father dropped her off at the school, located in Jacksonville’s Spring Park area, for a one-on-one voice lesson with Clayton, his arrest warrant states. Clayton was chairman of the school’s vocal department.

The student sat on a couch in Clayton’s office while he sat in a chair next to her. Clayton began talking about his “intoxicating” feelings for the student before he began rubbing her thighs, according to the warrant.

Clayton reportedly then began kissing the student, first with his mouth closed, then escalated to kissing her with his mouth open, putting his tongue in her mouth, the warrant states. 

With about 10 minutes remained in the singing lesson, the warrant says Clayton stood up and began teaching, as the student’s parent later picked her up and took her home.

Investigators worked with the student to record a phone call between herself and Clayton. The call lasted around 30 minutes and was recorded. 

“(The victim) is a very effervescent girl who just is different,” Clayton told detectives a day after the incident in a recorded interview with them. “She’s definitely a different kind of sort than I’ve had that I’ve taught.”

Clayton’s termination letter from Duval County Public Schools identifies four earlier sustained complaints made against him – in January 2006, March 2008, November 2016 and 2021; two of the complaints included inappropriate physical conduct with a student.

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