Florida teacher who kissed and touched a pupil gets sentenced to prison and appears for an interview

Jeffrey Clayton received a 10-year prison sentence following this interview. Click this link to read about the events leading up to his punishment.

Just over a week before his sentence hearing on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, Jeffrey Clayton, the former chair of the vocal department at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, consented to an exclusive interview with First Coast News.

The 66-year-old Clayton entered a guilty plea 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 may spend anywhere from three to forty years in Florida State Prison.

Clayton’s arrest report states that he inappropriately kissed and caressed a sixteen-year-old vocal student, and over the course of several months in 2023, the two exchanged around 1700 texts. Clayton wrote to the female student in one of the texts, saying, “I just had to come up for air because your steamy, honey sweet lips drove me crazy.”

Clayton conducted his interview with First Coast News from his Southside motel room. To make this transcript shorter, it has been altered.

FCN: We are in a Jacksonville hotel room. For what reason is that the case?

Clayton: “This is the current state of my life. And I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me in the slightest. I am exactly where I am at the moment. After spending some time in my car, I’m now in a hotel. My path consists of taking apart my life as I knew it.”

FCN: What was the duration of your car residency?

Clayton responded: “I was in my car for three months.” (Editor’s note: Clayton claims he was homeless for a while and is now divorced after 32 years of marriage. He claims that his hotel room is now being paid for by a family member. He claims that because he was unable to cook and had lost 45 to 50 pounds, he frequently relied on protein bars while living in his car.)

Clayton was asked by FCN what he would like to say to the people he has wronged.

Clayton: “I stand guilty before my Heavenly Father for straying from his path and not following Him. I feel guilty, ashamed, and regretful for causing so many people so much pain.” I’ve known for a very long time how much agony and suffering she and her family may be going through. What transpired here is mine to own. I refuse to turn my back on that. I am unable to. I wish I could take them out of their agony. However, I am unable to.

“I have to accept that I am to blame for this. It’s about allowing them to recover. I poisoned their perception of educators, particularly male educators, and the concept of trust in specific contexts. I ruined that. Our errors and transgressions have repercussions, yet we are also forgiven. There is recovery. People will now think whatever they want to believe via whatever lens they have, which is the only reason I’m speaking.”

FCN: According to some, your arrest was like a bomb going off. (Editor’s note: Following Clayton’s arrest, Duval County Public Schools faced a flurry of concerns and reports that were disregarded for far too long. Superintendent Dr. Dianna Greene then announced her retirement from her position.) Are you the owner of any of that?

Clayton replied, “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 think you should apologize to her? How would you respond?

Clayton: “Right now, this isn’t the place for me to do that. If the chance arises in the future and it seems like the right thing to do, then it will be something to consider.”

FCN: Have you ever had a principle or member of the administration approach you and say, “Mr. Clayton, we’ve had concerns about your behavior” and attempt to put an end to it?

Clayton responded, “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.”

And his career?

Clayton: “Once more, it’s not about my work. That disappeared in that manner (throws his hand up). The lasting effect that this will have on people is something that will never fade.”

What message would he send to his former pupils?

“To those students, I want to say that I’m sorry if there was ever anything I did that made you feel unsafe, that I didn’t care about you, and that I still don’t care how you feel. I’m interested in your feelings.

FCN: Do you think that will be accepted by the public?

Clayton said: “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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