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Local News

Bill Macfadyen: Search for Missing UC Santa Barbara Student Ends in Heartbreak

NoozWeek’s Top 5 announces a new Public Newsroom, has the Ed Behrens lawsuit on the docket, brews the last of Peet’s Coffee, gapes at a T-bone collision, and goes back to me

Noozhawk is soaring but the chaos of 2018 has me feeling more like a Noozduck at times, with our little legs paddling furiously underwater while we bob about on the surface. That’s the excuse I’m going with for the absence of our Public Newsroom anyway.

After a too-long hiatus, I’m pleased to announce that the next Public Newsroom has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 6, and we’re going to court. Well, we’ll be talking about court.

Our reporting on the topic consistently draws a large audience, and our readers regularly ask us court- and criminal justice-related questions.

They’re curious about our trial coverage. They’re looking for status reports. They don’t understand why it can be years before a case goes to trial. They want to know if they can get their arrest records removed from our site.

We thought we’d have executive editor Tom Bolton, managing editor Giana Magnoli and North County editor Janene Scully — who has been covering a lot of high-profile trials in Santa Maria recently — take the stand and explain the law and order as we journalists know it.

I’ll also talk a little bit about our plans to tackle Montecito and its next 50 years, and a major partnership we’ve forged with Novim and the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement & Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy to do just that. We’re not quite ready to outline that upcoming project in detail, but I’m excited to provide a sneak peek.

The Public Newsroom is an opportunity for our Hawks Club members to talk face to face with our team, and we’ve found the conversations to be just as helpful and useful to us as they are to the public. That’s a good thing.

We’ll be sending the Evite to our membership list at 5 p.m. May 29 so it’s not too late to join the club. Space is limited so reservations are required and will be first come, first serve. Click here to become a Hawks Club member.

We know Noozhawk’s professional news reporting is an indispensible part of your daily routine; we see it in our Google Analytics. I’m asking you to please join the Hawks Club at a dollar a week, or $52 a year, so we can deliver even more of the news you need and want. We are grateful for your support.

Speaking of our aforementioned Google Analytics, we had an audience of 114,875 readers this past week — perhaps many of them, like me, surprised that the dead-meat Los Angeles Dodgers have suddenly fogged the mirror and won six of their last seven games.

Before they lose again, here’s my take on your Top 5 stories of the last week. It’s my opinion column so it may contain ... my opinion.

1. UC Santa Barbara Student Found Dead in Cold Spring Canyon, an Apparent Suicide

The body of a missing UC Santa Barbara student was discovered May 22 in the area of the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge in the Santa Ynez Valley. She had last been seen May 18.

Annie Wang Click to view larger
Annie Wang, 20, of San Diego, was a second year psychology student at UC Santa Barbara. (Alpha Phi Omega photo)

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Annie Lynn Wang, 20, of San Diego, was reported missing May 21.

The subsequent investigation led the all-volunteer Search & Rescue team to the rugged terrain near the towering arch bridge on Highway 154 just beyond San Marcos Pass.

Wang’s body was located about 2:30 p.m., Hoover said.

“Her death is the result of an apparent suicide,” she added.

The circumstances of her death were not released, but the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge has a long and tragic history of suicides.

Wang was a second-year psychology major at UCSB. She also was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a coed fraternity that hosted a celebration of her life on May 24 in Isla Vista.

Funeral services are pending, but a GoFundMe page has been established to help her family with those expenses. As of May 25, more than $14,000 had been raised on a $10,000 goal. Click here to make an online donation.

Click here for suicide prevention information and resources that are available 24/7.

2. Former San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens Files Lawsuit Over ‘Malicious’ Demotion

Ed Behrens Click to view larger
Teachable moments. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

In a move you could see coming from a mile away, former San Marcos High School Principal Ed Behrens has sued the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Behrens was abruptly ousted earlier this year from the job he has held since 2011. The suit alleges that he was the subject of unlawful retaliation by SBUSD leadership and that his constitutional rights were violated in a series of actions precededing the controversial announcement.

“This case is about the malicious and retaliatory demotion of a respected and successful high school principal,” according to the lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court by the Cappello & Noël law firm.

The suit says Behrens was made to take the fall for the district’s botched handling of a highly publicized online threat incident, calling the ploy an “obvious attempt” to make him the scapegoat.

The district, backed by the SBUSD trustees, gave Behrens an ultimatum to either quit or be demoted at the end of the school year. He has since been reassigned as a junior high school social studies teacher — with a $50,000-a-year pay cut.

The lawsuit also sheds some light on the intrigue-laced and mystery-cloaked circumstances.

According to the suit, San Marcos High administrators were made aware of a Jan. 19 situation in which a possible threat was directed toward a handful of female students by fellow students — all boys — in a private online chat room. An investigation by authorities determined there was no danger, however.

Soon after, the suit says, a group of school parents told Behrens that if he did not disclose the names of the chat-room chumps, and the outcome of the case, they would release to the news media a video made by one of the boys.

Behrens reportedly declined to disclose the names, in keeping with student confidentiality requirements of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

On Feb. 7, according to the lawsuit, the district delivered to Behrens a highly critical letter of reprimand blaming him for “exacerbating” the incident even as it acknowledges that “appropriate safety protocol was executed in conjunction with law enforcement.”

The filing says the SBUSD letter faults Behrens for the release of the threat video, stating that “details of the disturbing incident went viral in a way that was beyond the control of district staff.”

“In failing to consider or to place in the personnel file Behrens’ response to a derogatory letter of reprimand, and in basing the demotion on reasons and materials not disclosed to Behrens, and in supplying a false statement of reasons, Respondent grossly violated these rights,” the lawsuit alleges.

“These violations unlawfully prejudiced Behrens in his attempt to defend his position and should result in reinstatement.”

SBUSD spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Kleman declined to comment, citing the active litigation.

There will be another chapter, however. Just wait.

3. Bill Macfadyen: News of High School Student’s Apparent Suicide Spreads Fast, and Officially

Was it my brilliant commentary, or the video of the baby pachyderm wiping out while chasing birds? Given the headline, I think we all know it’s the real elephant in the room.

4. BizHawk: Peet’s Coffee Pours Its Last Cup in Downtown Santa Barbara

Peet’s Coffee Click to view larger
“Peet! Where the heck are ya?! We ain’t got time for your shenanigans!” (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Peet’s Coffee & Tea has beat a retreat from downtown Santa Barbara, closing its doors for good at 1131 State St.

The signature coffee, tea and blended drinks chain — born in Berkeley in 1966 — has one other location on the South Coast, at 3905 State St. in the Five Points Shopping Center.

Representatives of Peet’s declined to comment on the company’s decision.

5. Major Injuries Reported in Downtown Santa Barbara Collision

Wreck Click to view larger
Crunch time in downtown Santa Barbara — in more ways than one. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk photo)

A violent collision at a downtown Santa Barbara intersection sent the drivers of the two cars to the hospital and snarled traffic in the area for hours afterward.

The crash occurred right before noon May 24 in the middle of Carrillo and Chapala streets. The impact left the two sedans mangled wrecks, just up Chapala under the towering Ralphs redwood tree.

According to Santa Barbara police spokesman Anthony Wagner, a 91-year-old woman was driving north on Chapala when she ran the red light and T-boned another car traveling west on Carrillo.

The second car was spun around and knocked over a traffic signal before crashing into a stone wall.

Santa Barbara fire Capt. Mike De Ponce said the second driver, a 30-year-old woman, had to be extricated before she could be transported by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He said she suffered major injuries.

The other woman also was taken to the hospital.

No one else was hurt at the scene, which usually is packed with pedestrians, given its proximity to the Santa Barbara MTD bus transfer station a few yards away.

Wagner said police are investigating the circumstances of the wreck.

Carrillo and Chapala streets were closed a block away in all four directions, bringing downtown mobility to a standstill until the intersection was reopened at 3:20 p.m. Because the MTD station was inacessible, passengers were picked up and dropped off in the next block of Chapala, just beyond West Figueroa Street.

Of course, downtown already has been a traffic nightmare since streets are randomly barricaded off or narrowed all over the place. Because, why?

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Two Hospitalized After Altercation Leads to Stabbing in Downtown Santa Barbara.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

The Invention of the Baby Carrot. Orange you glad you read this?

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

I was back to roaming Montecito with my Instagram feed this past week, but I had time for one Mission.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

If you’re like me, you skipped the royal wedding. Here’s what we missed.

(Bad Lip Reading video)

                                                                 •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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