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Former teacher apologizes following stalking plea

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A former high school teacher, who pleaded guilty in April to stalking an ex-girlfriend, said he has resigned from his position with Clayton County Public Schools.

Derrick Jackson, 50, who was a health and physical education teacher and one-time assistant basketball coach for North Clayton High School, said school officials asked him to resign April 29, after he pleaded guilty to felony aggravated stalking in Clayton County Superior Court April 28.

Superior Court Judge Albert Collier sentenced him to three years on probation. He also ordered him to pay a $400 fine and other court and probation fees. In addition, the judge put in place a permanent protective order barring Jackson from having contact with the victim.

Clayton County Schools Spokesman John Lyles said he could not comment on the personnel matter, and could not confirm whether Jackson was still employed with the school system.

After being released from jail April 29, Jackson contacted the Clayton News Daily and said: "I want to give a pubic apology to all the kids, the parents and all the people I serve ... the people that I let down.

"I wanted to make sure I got a chance for my voice to be heard," he said in a telephone interview.

Jackson served 50 days in the Clayton County Jail. He was arrested March 10 for violating a temporary protective order barring him from contacting his ex-girlfriend.

He violated the original order on March 6, by continuing to contact the victim by phone and sending flowers to her at work, according to an arrest warrant.

In the petition seeking the original protective order, the victim said Jackson had harassed her by coming to her residence uninvited, and continually making phone calls, "saying I need to watch my back."

The woman also said that Jackson "made a comment about doing harm to my children. I have recordings," she said.

After being released from jail, Jackson admitted that he violated the protective order on March 6, by attempting to contact the victim, but denied that he told the woman she needed to watch her back, or that he threatened her teenage sons.

The victim could not be reached for comment.

Jackson said when he contacted the victim in March, he was attempting to make atonement as part of an Al-Anon process. "I'm a son of a father that's an alcoholic," he said. "Al-Anon is when family members go to a meeting to understand the person with the alcohol problem," he said.

"That particular night, I tried to talk to my dad to atone, and I sent her [victim] flowers to ask for her forgiveness. I apologized for saying some things that I didn't really mean," said Jackson.

"I was asking forgiveness because ... if I created anxiety, that wasn't what I intended. All I was trying to do was put some closure," he said.

Jackson had been employed with Clayton County Schools since August 2007, a school spokesman said earlier. According to Jackson, prior to coming to Clayton County, he taught and coached in public schools in Illinois and Michigan for more than 18 years.

He said he came to Georgia to start a new life after his mother, grandmother and aunt were killed in a car crash in July 2005. "When I got here, I started grieving because I realized I'm by myself here. I don't have any family here," Jackson said.

"For me, that was my friend [the victim], and the only friend I had, and all of a sudden, it's cut off," he said. "For her, it may not have meant anything. For me, it was the first time I actually felt like I was living again," he said.

Jackson said, despite his guilty plea on the stalking charge, he believes he should have been allowed to keep his job with Clayton County Public Schools.

"They asked me to resign. I felt they could have used me, and let me speak to students and see how to help them avoid such situations," he said.

"I resigned because I really felt the stress of fighting them with the union -- it's not worth it," he said.

Jackson added that he will likely move back to Harvey, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, "where I have brothers and sisters and my dad. I have a good chance to get back into employment there."

He said he wasn't sure what type of employment he would seek. He did say he plans to write a book that he will entitle "50/50." He said that's because he was served notice of the original protective order on his 50th birthday, Oct. 1, and because he sat in jail for 50 days after being arrested.

"Our young, black males are doing time," he said. "The book will be about how to avoid going to jail."