“There’s a breach of trust:” Parents want transparent investigation into misconduct at Duval schools
The Duval County School Board abruptly canceled a highly anticipated meeting centered around several teachers at a Jacksonville high school.
Action News Jax told you last month when former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts “Vocal Department Chair,” Jeffrey Clayton was arrested and charged with sex crimes involving a student. Since then, more allegations have come to light, and more school employees have been reassigned due to investigations.
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The school board held a special meeting Wednesday, discussing hiring an outside law firm to investigate the district. A follow-up meeting was supposed to be held on Friday, but 20 minutes before the start time, it was “postponed due to pending legal matters.”
Board Chairwoman Dr. Kelly Coker released the following statement:
“At the request of the Office of General Counsel, the special meeting of the Duval County School Board scheduled for today (April 28, 2023) has been postponed due to pending legal matters.
“I will provide information about rescheduling the meeting after further consultation with the Office of General Counsel.”
RELATED: Duval schools superintendent Diana Greene, General Counsel negotiating terms of separation agreement
“We were surprised to see the meeting canceled, but we’ll find out if that’s a good thing or bad thing in the days to come,” Benjamin Dixon said. He’s a former teacher and current pastor. Dixon came out to support Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene.
Some other familiar faces from Wednesday’s meeting were back again on Friday to voice their opinions.
“As soon as the first Black female superintendent showed up, he [Clayton] had an investigation,” Sharmin Smith said. “He ended up arrested.”
RELATED: NAACP Jacksonville throws support behind DCPS superintendent in newly released statement
Smith refers to the recent arrest of Clayton, who has been with the school since 2000. Three other teachers were removed from the classroom in the last few weeks for unknown reasons.
The State Board of Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz, sent a letter, on Tuesday, accusing Greene of not reporting 50 cases of misconduct until just last week. Some of those cases date back to 2020. It’s raised questions over who is responsible.
Greene responded to the criticism on Friday.
Letter of Response to Commissioner Diaz (04-28-2023) by ActionNewsJax on Scribd
“What happened at Douglas Anderson was tragic and shameful,” Dixon said. “But, I think there needs to be an additional investigation into the people who are trying to lay this at the feet of one of the most successful superintendents we’ve ever had.”
Dixon’s sentiments echo those of the NAACP Jacksonville Branch, which issued a statement Friday, urging “the school board to abandon the political tactics or witch hunts.”
RELATED: New documents reveal former Douglas Anderson teacher had several complaints prior to recent arrest
Others don’t have as much faith in Greene and have more questions regarding who knew what and when.
“The law has to be followed. If the law is not followed, there’s systems in place to find out who the lawbreaker are,” Joey Marmo said. “If she’s a lawbreaker, she needs to go.”
RELATED: State questions Duval County Public Schools over reporting of arrested Douglas Anderson teacher
Some parents and Douglas Anderson alumni believe the questions over Greene are taking away from the victims.
“There’s parents of DA students and DA alumni here who feel that they want the attention brought back and centered on the students and victims,” Dr. Jennifer Cowart said. “And, that there’s some other things happening -- maybe with the superintendent or others -- that they feel in some ways, this is taking the spotlight off of where it needs to be.”
Cowart is the mother of two DCPS students and came out to show support for the Douglas Anderson community.
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“They are with teachers whom we trust,” Cowart said. “When something like this happens and there’s a breach of trust, we need to be able to know that the system works -- that it identifies these people who are breaking our trust.”
No word yet on when the special meeting will be rescheduled as of Friday evening.
The school board has its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
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School board member Charlotte Joyce of District 6 sent Action News Jax this statement in regard to the cancellation of the meeting:
“The cancellation of today’s special meeting is unfortunate and extremely concerning. This meeting which was supposed to be held at the beginning of the week has been postponed yet again.
“To say I am frustrated is an understatement. The situation with Douglas Anderson has been ongoing for over a month and the board still has not had an opportunity to discuss the issues around the reporting and what is being done within the District to remedy the situation. No one has been put on administrative leave and only one individual has been reassigned.
“This Board was elected by the taxpayers of Duval County and they deserve to hear a conversation about this issue. More importantly, the students and community of Douglas Anderson deserve better than this. They have been left in the dark and this is completely unacceptable.”
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