School Board Demotes San Marcos Principal Despite Community Support
(Photo: John Palminteri of KEYT News)
The Santa Barbara Unified School District voted to demote San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens on Tuesday evening despite a strong showing of community support.
The meeting's venue switched to Marjorie Luke Theatre in anticipation of a large crowd. Starting at 5:00 p.m., the venue was nearly at capacity with parents, students, educators, and activists who spoke during the public comment portion. The majority of speakers were emphatically supportive of Behrens and his accomplishments at San Marcos High School.
"Mr. Behrens helped my daughter get accepted to three universities," said one parent. "We weren't even considering sending our child to San Marcos until Ed turned it around," said another.
Behrens came under fire after many felt a threatening message on social media targeting students was mishandled by administrators. Parents complained they were not promptly informed and put their targeted children at risk. Later the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department did not find an immediate threat but are continuing to investigate the matter.
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, an online petition circulated to reinstate Behrens as Principal that gained over 2,500 signatures. Another group formed "SMHS Supporters of Ed" and released statements to local media outlets expressing their frustration with the school board. "Supporters of Mr. Behrens believe that he has been made the scapegoat for the embarrassment brought upon the School District when concerned parents raised important questions regarding the District’s lack of a well-defined Threat Management and Communication plan to handle cyber threats," the statement read.
Although Behrens garnered a strong support, one local activist group is more focused on the safety of San Marcos High School students, than the Principal's employment. PODER Santa Barbara issued a public statement on their Facebook page expressing their solidarity with the students who received death threats in the social media video. "We are sorry that some parents are choosing to make more of an effort to save Ed Behrens more than they are trying to listen to you when you say Ed Behrens has failed you," PODER wrote.
The statement continued to call upon the school board to select a new Principal who stands up for all students. "As we hear stories of Behrens’ failures and stories of Behrens’ successes, we recognize the glaring pattern of racially based disparity in his treatment of students and parents. PODER stands behind the School Board’s decision to replace Ed Behrens. We do not believe this is an end-all solution. However, we want to see a replacement who is culturally competent, who demonstrates accountability and follow through, and who has the courage to be a leader in difficult times not just for himself but for our kids."
After nearly three hours of public comments and deliberations, the majority vote of the school board ruled to continue with demoting Behrens. Largely being referred to as a "personnel matter" by the board, frustrated parents and students expressed their support of the veteran educator.
A recording of the meeting is available below thanks to a live Facebook feed from The Independent:
- January 25, 2018: Search Warrants Issued after Disturbing Internet Video
- February 6, 2018: OP ED - School District's Response in San Marcos Internet Video
- March 2, 2018: Parents Rally Around Demoted San Marcos Principal
- March 12, 2018: Sheriff Investigating San Marcos Lockdown Due to Fireworks
- March 13, 2018: School Board Meeting Location