Former San Marcos High School Principal Files Appeal
Ed Behrens speaking on his own behalf during the March 13, 2018 meeting (Photo: John Palminteri of)
By edhat staff
Former San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens filed an appeal on Friday after a Santa Barbara County Superior Court dismissed his lawsuit against the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD).
The lawsuit, which was filed on May 21, 2018, argued that Behrens should be reinstated as Principal after being wrongfully removed from his position.
Local law firm Capello & Noël represented Behrens alleging a violation of constitutional rights and unlawful retaliation in violations of California's labor codes.
Last March, Behrens was demoted after a student posted a threatening message on social media targeting other students. Parents complained they were not promptly informed and their children were put at risk stating administrators mishandled the incident. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department did not find an immediate threat relating to the video.
During a follow-up community three-hour meeting, many of the public comments were positive and praising of Behrens. he majority vote of the school board ruled to continue with demoting Behrens, largely being referred to as a "personnel matter."
Behrens, with a 27-year teaching career including principal at San Marcos High School from 2011 until 2018, alleges that SBUSD Superintendent Cary Matsuoka used Behrens as a scapegoat for the district's mishandling of the incident and then spread false and misleading information about Behrens to the board and to the public.
"In deposition, Matsuoka admitted that strategic public statements he made about Ed were false," says Leila Noël, partner in the law firm Cappello & Noël. "He also carefully controlled the information to the board and Ed about Ed’s performance to lead the board to the predetermined result he wanted: Ed’s removal from SMHS. We are pursuing this case to ensure justice is done."
Behrens was reassigned as a junior high school teacher which resulted in a salary cut of over $50,000 per year.
The lawsuit contends that by demoting Behrens, the district violated his rights under the Education Code and District regulations. In addition to being reinstated to his principal position, Behrens is seeking back pay as a result of the demotion and punitive damages.
Matsuoka recently announced that he would not seek to extend his contract with the district, which is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021.
SBUSD has previously stated they cannot discuss litigation.