Former Douglas Anderson teacher sentenced to 10 years for crimes against 16-year-old student

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A judge sentenced disgraced Douglas Anderson School of the Arts music teacher Jeffrey Clayton to 10 years in prison followed by three years of probation Friday.

Back in April, Clayton agreed to plead guilty to two counts of offenses against students by authority figures; indecent, lewd or lascivious touching of certain minors and unlawful use of a two-way communications device.

RELATED: Longtime Douglas Anderson music teacher pleads guilty after touching 16-year-old student, professing romantic feelings

Clayton was facing up to 40 years in prison.

The victim told the court the grooming and abuse she experienced at Clayton’s hands has left her isolated, withdrawn, distrustful, and she believes she will be recovering for the rest of her life.

“Ge prayed with me in his office, comforted me when I cried and said he wanted to be like a father to me,” she said. “But what began as kind words and seemingly innocent touches soon became proclamations of lust.”

At the start of the sentencing hearing, Clayton apologized to the victim, her family, his students, and colleagues. He only lost composure when spoke about his family.

“I am deeply sorrowful and apologize to all students at DA that came into contact with me and my teaching. All I can see are the shocked and devastated faces of doubt, horror, and inner suffering,” he said.

“I have no excuse or justification for my actions in which I plead guilty,” Clayton said. “I failed those who trusted me.”

Clayton also apologized to his seven sons and the way he treated their mother. He also said that he’s been living in his car for months.

“There is no question I crossed a sacred line,” Clayton said.

Watch Clayton’s full statement in the video below. Note: The courtroom audio is not good quality and some parts of the statement may be difficult to hear.

Clayton pleaded guilty after being caught discussing kissing the victim in a phone call between the two recorded by police.

“One day I’m thinking I just want to survive this, and then the next day I just want to kiss you again,” Clayton could be heard saying in that call.

A detective testified that phone records revealed late-night FaceTime calls between the 16-year-old and her 65-year-old teacher, as well as more than 1,000 text messages.

As part of a plea agreement, a total of seven additional female DA students were permitted to testify at Clayton’s sentencing. In exchange, the State Attorney’s Office agreed not to bring additional charges against Clayton regarding his time at DA. Clayton denies any criminal actions relating to the seven additional students permitted to testify.

Four of them ended up testifying Friday. The first cried as she testified that Clayton groomed and touched her, resulting in devastating emotional consequences. The second said Clayton touched her inappropriately in the guise of instruction.

“Once the abuse started, I dreaded coming to class. I would absolutely dread to be picked to have a private coaching with Mr. Clayton. Before, being chosen would make me feel so special. I feared he would touch my lower stomach and chest or violently pull my hair again,” she said.

The third additional student who testified said Clayton emotionally abused students, which he denied.

“Why did it take this long for Mr. Clayton to be caught?” one of the students said to the court “I hope you give him the sentence that he deserves.”

MORE: ‘My high school hell’: Letters from former Douglas Anderson students detail years of anguish involving accused teacher | Warrant shows what led to arrest of Douglas Anderson school music teacher

In a court filing, Clayton’s attorney noted his client’s lack of prior criminal history, good behavior on bail, and support from former students, parents and colleagues who have written him character letters.

He also listed the initials and brief bios of dozens of former students, that “Mr. Clayton trained, coached, and helped go to the next level, whether through college or outside of college, in furtherance of their musical career.”

Former DA student Shyla Jenkins said this is ironic because Clayton’s power over students’ careers was a tool he wielded to abuse.

Former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher Jeffrey Clayton leaves the Duval County Courthouse with his attorney after pleading guilty. (Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX - All rights reserved.)

“He had absolute total rein to direct your career, whether you succeeded or didn’t and so to use those names in the way that he did, to show that he’s such a great person is a betrayal because it’s not the truth,” Jenkins said.

Some of the former students listed said they didn’t give permission to be included in the filing.

News4JAX received an email from someone who said they were identified among the success stories.

She said Clayton picked her as a favorite and groomed her as a vulnerable teen, and although it never got physical, it led to backlash from peers and staff.

“I, and many of my fellow alumni find it perplexing, pathetic, and offensive to not only attempt to take responsibility for OUR hard work and accomplishments but to go so far as to use them as cover to excuse his abhorrent and inexcusable behavior,” she wrote.

MORE: Douglas Anderson music teacher’s disciplinary history shows record of being accused of inappropriately touching students

She said she used to think of Clayton fondly, but “Now when I think about all the time I spent with him, just texting, or all the hours completely alone and behind closed doors, I feel ill. I feel betrayed and I hate him.”

“I loathe him absolutely for thinking he could use me, even in this small way, to vouch for him,” she wrote. “He shows a clear pattern of this type of behavior, a disregard for the safety of children, a lack of respect for his career, community, family, and common decency. He is sick, he is dangerous, and he should get the maximum sentence available.”

News4JAX asked Clayton’s attorney about the student’s claim that she was not asked to be included in the statements.

“No confidential information of any former student was used in any portion of the sentencing memorandum and nowhere was it represented that any of these former students supported or support Mr. Clayton in any way or condone his behavior. Out of respect for the concerns of some of these individuals that have reached out to my office, however, that entire section of the memorandum has been redacted. Separately, multiple former DA students, former DA parents, and friends and family of Mr. Clayton, while of course not in any way condoning or supporting his conduct that led to these charges, have offered their support which will be presented at sentencing tomorrow,” attorney John Rockwell said in a statement.

No witnesses spoke in Clayton’s support in court, although the defense pointed to 148 pages of letters, notes, and cards Clayton received over 20 years praising him as an educator, as well as other character letters from former DA students and parents.

Judge Salvador said she read every page, but working against Clayton was his position as a teacher, the “creepy” controlled call, and a personnel file that showed he had been warned multiple times against touching students inappropriately.

“You know better. You knew better. You should have known better,” Judge Salvador said before reading Clayton’s sentence.

Clayton’s arrest last spring unleashed a barrage of other allegations of abuse and a toxic culture at the school and led to other teachers being removed from the classroom amid investigations.

Recommended Videos