The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education is set to discuss a pair of ongoing lawsuits during a closed session today.
The board will hold conferences with their legal counsel in lawsuits filed against the school district by former San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens and parent-led community group Fair Education Santa Barbara, according to the agenda.
In December, Fair Education Santa Barbara filed a federal lawsuit in United States Central District Court against the school district and Just Communities, alleging six counts of intentional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion and sex and violations of California laws requiring competitive bidding for government contracts.
Just Communities is a nonprofit that provides “unconscious bias” instruction to teachers, administrators and sometimes students. The district has paid Just Communities more than $1.3 million since 2013 for educational materials and faculty training on implicit bias, cultural proficiency and social equity.
On March 6, a federal judge dismissed Fair Education Santa Barbara’s lawsuit and ordered them to file an amended lawsuit on April 8. The group instead filed a notice of voluntary dismissal and refiled the lawsuit in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
The school district’s attorneys objected to the tactic, but Judge Stephen Wilson found Fair Education Santa Barbara had an absolute right to dismiss their claim pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
“On April 8, 2019, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed JCCC ? which Plaintiff had an absolute right to do without interference from this Court, because JCCC had not yet served an answer or a motion for summary judgment,” wrote Judge Wilson his May 15 dismissal order.
Fair Education Santa Barbara attorney Eric Early said a case management conference in the state court case is set for late August.
“Right now, we’re in the very early stages. We have a case management conference, but there are no motions on at this time,” said Mr. Early.
School district attorney Craig Price said he has received the complaint and will file a response within the next 45 days.
Mr. Behrens sued the district in May 2018, alleging he was unfairly demoted after San Marcos administrators were notified of a possible threat made against 16 female students in a private online chat room in January 2018.
A group of parents threatened to release a video of the threat when Mr. Behrens refused to identify the students involved. The video depicts a student with an antique musket describing how to kill female classmates. It was eventually released to local media.
The lawsuit asks for reinstatement of Mr. Behrens as San Marcos principal, or for money damages.