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.

Ed Behrens speaking on his on behalf during the meeting (Photo: John Palminteri of KEYT News)

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:


Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. I agree and support the decision made by the School Board, Ed Behrens was put in a position to uphold school policies and protect the students. One year ago, I posted on Edhat an incident my son had at SMHS, it was about a student that made threats of killing my son as well as another female student, he also brandished a knife. His own parents reported him to Administration over their concern for my son and the other students safety. A police report was filed the same day, my son fully cooperated w/the school and the authorities, he did everything the school ask students to do if they are being harassed or threatened. The same student who self disclosed/confessed that he had a knife at school and made a valid threat to want to KILL my son was suspended for 3 days, (school policy does no allow Admin to disclose what type of disciplinary action was taken), we only knew because the parents of the boy were very forthcoming about their son returning back to school and what precautions my son should take should their son harass him again. On the very day he returned to SMHS he threw a glass bottle at my sons head just barely missing him. My son immediately called me, I frantically called the school and after waiting for 15 mins they informed me that someone had already unanimously reported that this kid had a knife on him again, I called the aggressors father and we were both on campus within minutes. My son got into a physical altercation with this boy, after another student took the knife from him. My son who had never been in any trouble, was suspended for five days, & referred to Juvenile Probation, the student that took the knife from the assailant was suspended for one day, (he should have received a medal of honor). Once in the office the treatment from Ed Behrens was appalling to say the least, he spoke down to us in an open area, it was clear he did not know the events that lead up to the altercation, he’s the principal I mean clearly he should have known my son was a victim! Ben Drati was the Superintendent of Students at the time and concluded in closing his investigation that SMHS missed some steps in protecting my son, and for not following their policy for zero tolerance to bullying and harassing, but again they could not disclose how they addressed these issues, Juvenile Probation could not make sense of the two conflicting police reports that were filed, they immediately new my son was wronged.

  2. This is just one of the many similar stories about Behrens and his flaws. Like another commenter said, we don’t know all the facts of his demotion and the Board might have other information that wasn’t spoken at the open meeting.

  3. I think PODER did a good thing by standing up for kids put by the way side… I’m sure there were more things involved for the school board to make the decision that they did. Hopefully in the future everyone could come together and work things out instead of putting others down.

  4. The school board is supposed to represent the public in overseeing the school system. So why would they take this action over the wishes of the vast majority of the public that they are supposed to be serving? And what does this PODER have to do with running the school system?
    I wonder if we will ever find out the answer to “why” Behrens was fired.

  5. This is not a big mistake. Read through what PODER has said. At least they recognize the fact that he has had failures along with his successes. Unfortunately his failures have left many students behind and in fear. The principal is supposed to represent all students. Not just the ones he favors. Ill say this again too, this guy spent way too much time with the girls volleyball and softball teams and families. I’m a man and understand his MO perfectly. It is also convenient that he wears his sunglasses even when in dark classrooms. I had two kids go through SM while he was there both as assistant and principal. One child was constantly admonished sometimes rightfully so and other times not. The other child was never admonished as he never did anything to get in trouble. His remark when he heard he might be demoted….Its about time. The guy would pass me in the hall and say “whats up bro”. We know what’s up bro. Time for you to step down. Should be immediate, but the heart of the people on the board have given him a reprieve to serve out this year.

  6. The terrible decision by this 4/5 unelected school board that can’t stand up to this out-of-town bureaucrat who is so clearly out-of-touch with this community. What has been done to Ed in such a public way is just the latest humiliation that has happened to far too many very fine individuals who were dedicated to providing educational opportunity to our students, but he either intimidated into leaving or outright let them go. And this is the same team that decided to close Open Alternative School without convening a study group to even look at options, despite the pleas of the public. After two years, he’s really put his stamp on this district, and it’s devoid of understanding of Santa Barbara. Ironic that PODER is supporting this decision when so many Latinas (many with Ph.D.s which he doesn’t have) have been forced out of high-profile jobs with the district under Cary’s reign.

  7. I attended SMHS for four years and graduated in 2001. Lil Eddie was a horror of a Vice Principal. He was clearly out to punish students and enjoyed it. He prowled around looking for reasons to bust kids and cast a shadow of fear over the school. That is not how professional educators work.
    During my senior year, some friends and I were involved in a prank “war.” While the other group of students did actually vandalize, we never did. We brought our own materials and basically did installations of silly things we’d made at home. We made a point of not damaging any property. The morning after we put up a tarp with “PRANK” written on it on the baseball backstop (with wire we broight from home) I saw the janitors in cherry pickers taking it down. An hour later, having been pulled from class and brought to Lil Eddie’s office, he told me he personally had climbed the backstop to take the tarp down. I told him he was lying, and that I had seen the janitors doing it barely an hour earlier. He didn’t appreciate it.
    The man should not be working with kids. I speak from experience when I say that he uses his position to settle some ancient beef he has with whomever picked on him as a kid. This demotion is fantastic news for the well being of SMHS students. Eddie ought to be washing dishes in the cafeteria if he’s allowed to stay at all. He is grade A scumbag material.

  8. so a principle punished you as a kid, now you think he’s a scumbag. yet you admitted to doing something disruptive to school. which as a principal he is supposed to punish for things like that. I hated my principal too, but I realize my hatred towards him was only because I put myself in his crosshairs, I made myself a target for his discipline. In every relationship, there are two actors. You are not innocent. You even gave us the evidence.

  9. What people seem to be missing is that the School Board never explicitly said why Behrens was demoted. None of you have all that facts except you’re assuming it’s because of the social media threat. For all we know, he could have done some shady stuff behind closed doors that board is keeping quiet. And props to PODER for being the ONLY voice standing up for students and recognizing that Behrens has flaws while most people have put him on a pedestal without all the facts or information.

  10. You missed the point. Eddie is dishonest and creates a culture of fear. Of course kids make trouble in high school. How that trouble is dealt with matters. I got busted by Paul Sirca (spelled wrong I’m sure) and Ms Christiansen, but I respected them because of how they handled it. They listened. They were honest, and I took my punishment without losing an ounce of respect for them. Lil Eddie lied and clearly enjoyed piling on punishment. He’s an authoritarian and has no compassion. He shouldn’t be working with kids.

  11. But it’s not like PODER is a group of adults doing this alone. They have San Marcos students behind them. There are groups on either side is what they’re pointing out. Behrens has a strong support but he also has critiques who feel he should be replaced. It’s just a balanced perspective.

  12. You missed the point. Eddie is dishonest and creates a culture of fear. Of course kids make trouble in high school. How that trouble is dealt with matters. I got busted by Paul Sirca (spelled wrong I’m sure) and Ms Christiansen, but I respected them because of how they handled it. They listened. They were honest, and I took my punishment without losing an ounce of respect for them. Lil Eddie lied and clearly enjoyed piling on punishment. He’s an authoritarian and has no compassion. He shouldn’t be working with kids.

  13. The headine for this news item concerns me. As the son, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, and friend to great teachers, I object to use of the term “demoted to a teaching position” in reference to this personnel matter. Great administrators are nearly always great teachers. Teaching is not a demotion.
    Don Lubach

  14. His record of proven accomplishments is admirable. Now he will never get another job anywhere. Thank you Ms Capps for being a vote of reason. May others soon join you on the SBUSD school board. Yes, it does matter who gets elected even to your local school boards.

  15. You’re wrong. A lot of the kids who dislike him were treated unfairly by him. In what world do high school students not get in occasional trouble? It’s really surprising how so many people seem to chalk up dislike for Eddie to being a problem child. I did well in high school, and had great relationships with many teachers and administrators. What I cannot abide, however, is authoritarianism.

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