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Behrens Battle to Continue

Judge’s Ruling Upholds School District Reassignment

Ed Behrens | Credit: Paul Wellman

The legal struggles over the demotion of former San Marcos High School principal Ed Behrens show little sign of abating despite Judge Pauline Maxwell’s ruling last week upholding the legality of Santa Barbara school district superintendent Cary Matsuoka’s decision to reassign Behrens last year.

Behrens was moved shortly after a chat-room incident involving several San Marcos High School boys explaining how they might dispatch a number of girl students with musket and bayonet. Behrens claimed he had been tagged as the fall guy for that incident, and in three legal motions he asserted he was illegally reassigned from high school principal to junior high school teacher. With her ruling, Judge Maxwell has now rejected all three.

The district has maintained the decision to reassign Behrens ​— ​who has since emerged as a lightning rod in the ethnic politics that have surfaced at district meetings ​— ​was made several months prior to the now-infamous chat-room episode. Behrens had reportedly been under pressure to equalize educational opportunities afforded to Anglo and Latino students. District Superintendent Matsuoka greeted Maxwell’s latest ruling, stating, “We are thankful the court has ruled in our favor on all fronts in the Behrens case. We look forward to a bright future at San Marcos High School under the leadership of Dr. Kip Glazer.” The legal costs to the district thus far hover at about $500,000, according to Santa Barbara Unified. Those funds come from the general fund.

Behrens’s attorney, David Cousineau, vowed to appeal, stating, “The legal process has confirmed what we always thought: Ed Behrens, a devoted and respected principal, was demoted after a concerted campaign to undermine his reputation, and then was publicly denigrated based on false information.” What exactly that information was never saw the public light of day because Behrens himself obtained a court order to seal his personnel files. 

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