Santa Barbara- S County

San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens files lawsuit against School District

Attorney: 'Scapegoat for District missteps'

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Ed Behrens, the San Marcos High School Principal who faces a demotion at the end of the school year, is now officially in a legal battle to keep his job.

If that doesn't happen, Behrens, who has spent nearly three decades in education, is demanding a jury trial. 

That information is revealed in Behrens' complaint filed this week against the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) by his attorney, Leila Noel, with the Cappello & Noel in Santa Barbara. 

"We believe he (Behrens) was demoted because he followed the law," Noel said during a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon. "His due process rights weren't followed." 

The case claims the "malicious and retaliatory demotion" is linked to "District missteps" in the wake of a violent social media threat back in January involving a number of male students. 

Noel said Behrens' handling of the incident followed District protocol and that the SMHS principal followed FERPA student privacy laws, refusing to release the students' names and revealing their eventual punishment. 

In February 2018, SBUSD Superintendent Cary Matsuoka informed Behrens he would be demoted to a  teaching position at the end of this school year. 

Noel said the settlement statement Behrens received from the District said nothing about sub-par academies or racial inequality. Noel said he was given a statement that included "nothing in particular" and "nothing beyond your personnel file."

The two-part complaint includes the 'Petition,' which seeks to have Behrens reinstated as Principal at SMHS. The second portion or 'Alternative' would seek a jury trial if Behrens is not reinstated.

Noel confirmed that Behrens was appointed to a Social Studies teaching position at Santa Barbara Junior High School come Fall with a $50,000 dollar reduction in pay. He has no say in the matter.

"It's this or nothing," Noel said.

Noel said Behrens' case was assigned to Judge Colleen Sterne and revealed that within a matter of hours Wednesday, the District disqualified Sterne. The case was then assigned to Judge Tom Anderle.

Cappello and Noel has the option to disqualify Anderle, in which case a third judge would be assigned.

Noel said the 'Petition' part of the case will likely take at least one to two weeks. The 'Alternative' for a jury trial could take years. 

We reached out to the SBUSD and was told by spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Klemen they had no comment. 

You'll find a link to a copy of the Complaint here.

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