Matsuda Wrote Recommendation AUHSD Principal, Despite Knowing He Failed To Report Teacher’s Sexual Harassment Of Student

L to R: AUSHD Superintendent Michael Matsuda; AUSHD Board of Education member Al Jabbar; Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education member Ryan Ruelas; Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno.

Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael Matsuda wrote a letter of recommendation for a principal whom Matsuda knew had failed to report sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement, despite being legally required to do so, the OC Register reported last week.

The revelation regarding Matsuda’s recommendation of former John F. Kennedy High School principal Russell Earnest emanates from a lawsuit against filed against AUHSD by a current student and a former student, for allegedly concealing complaints of sexual abuse and harassment against a former water polo coach Josh Owens.

Owens was convicted in 2018 of a felony count of oral copulation of a victim younger than 16, a felony count of sexual penetration of a victim younger than 16, and six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance. He was sentenced to six months in jail.

According to the OC Register story:

“Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael Matsuda wrote a letter of recommendation to the Duarte Unified School District on behalf of a Kennedy High School principal who police said failed to report sexual misconduct allegations to law enforcement or Child Protective Services as mandated by California law.

A Kennedy water polo coach allegedly began sexually abusing two female players and continued abusing a third after Kennedy’s principal, Russell Earnest, and at least four other Kennedy employees became aware but failed to report the earlier allegations of sexual abuse.

Earnest told a detective that he was aware of allegations against the coach more than a year before the coach’s arrest for multiple sex offenses but did not investigate those allegations, according to a police report.”

Matsuda did not respond to OC Register requests for comment.

The allegations initially surfaced when Kennedy High School teach Ian Sabala forwarded to Earnest and two other school staffers an e-mail he’d received from a former student warning of Owens behavior toward current students.  Sabala, like Earnest and the other two AUHSD employees, is a mandated reporter – but none of them notified law enforcement as required by law.

Sabala is also an officer with the district’s teachers union, the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association.

Then-Buena Park police detective Todd Franssen met with Matsuda in November 2016 about the allegations:

Franssen was invited by Anaheim UHSD administrators to attend two meetings on November 29, 2016 with Kennedy water polo and swim team members and their families, according to a police report. Franssen said in his deposition that he spoke to Matsuda at the second meeting about the school’s handling of the Owens case.

“There was some inference there to some sort of liability and — on behalf of the school and school district,” Franssen recalled in his deposition.

On March 24, 2017, four months after Owens was arrested, Matsuda wrote a “letter of recommendation on behalf of Russ Earnest” to Duarte USD officials.

“I have worked closely with Mr. Earnest in his capacity as principal at Kennedy High School,” Matsuda wrote.

“Mr. Earnest also has personal qualities and characteristics that create great working relationships at AUSHD and foster important connections with staff, students, parents, and the greater Anaheim community,” Matsuda also wrote.

Two months later, Earnest was hired as associate principal of Duarte High School.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs, Morgan A. Stewart, expressed astonishment at Matsuda’s decision to recommend Earnest despite knowing about his failure to follow his legally mandated duty to notify law enforcement of the abuse allegations:

Stewart said “I’m not sure what’s going on with Matsuda.

“You’ve got a superintendent endorsing a guy who failed to make a report (about sex abuse allegations),” Stewart continued, “while you have all these employees who failed to report throughout the district.

(Left to right): Ryan Ruelas, Mike Matsuda, Al Jabbar.

Matsuda was appointed superintendent of the AUHSD in March of 2014. He had no prior experience as a school site administrator, but a long track record of progressive political activism, including an unsuccessful 1998 run for state Assembly as the Democratic nominee in the 68th Assembly District. His administration has been characterized by a politicization of the district, fostering progressive political activism among students, supporting the establishment of Ethnic Studies programs in AUHSD schools, and overt hostility toward charter schools. He is a close friend and political ally of Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno and his coterie of left-wing allies on the AUHSD and Anaheim Elementary School District boards of education.

15 comments

  1. Everything in the letter was truthful. The teachers and administrators are mandated reporters- but there was no direct accusation- only hearsay about possible dating.
    The fact is that Matsuda hated Russ Earnest and was looking for away to get rid of him. My belief is that he felt Russ was a threat and too experienced- too popular. So Matsuda blew this out of proportion and quickly put Earnest on leave. This completely different from the way he handled it when his political ally Manuel Colon oversaw the alledged problems with David Bruce at Sycamore and a walk on coach that was messing with athletes at Savanna. In both cases Colon was not disciplined in any way and probably shouldn’t have been. These criminals are the criminals. They lie very well. The way Matsuda handled this situation highlights what novice he is and that he hired a bunch over inexperienced yes men around him. The district will pay for a long time, Mr. Earnest is made out to be a bad person and he is not. Matsuda will be out soon – the important thing is to throw his butt in jail for wasting all the money on stupid political games, slogans and lawsuits

    • Disgusted in Anaheim

      And where is Matsuda going? It is very troubling that he wrote a letter of rec for a guy who failed to report sexual misconduct allegations.

  2. The failure to report this looks terrible in the rear view mirror- but a principal of a comprehensive high school with over 2000 students and 200 employees is hearing allegations of some sort of another on a daily basis. I am sure that if any of the girls had come forward a call to cps would have been automatic. In this case it was hearsay to a thirds party the relayed it to the ad and principal. If Matsuda would have any clue what it’s like to be a teacher or principal he would not have fired Russ Earnest- Matsudas lack of experience and lack of any guidance around him led him to use this incident to fire the best principal we have ever had at Kennedy. By the way Matsudas hand picked friend that replaced him has already been told she will be fired at the end of this year due to her gross incompetence. Instead of unlimited you- the district slogan should be unlimited waste.
    Matsuda can’t have it both ways. If Earnest really messed up- no letter. By writing the letter of recommendation it does send mixed messages and the attorneys mentioned in the article has seized the opportunity to make big money. Matsuda should be fired tomorrow

  3. If this is all true Matsuda should not be superintendent to AUHSD. YOU NEED TO HAVE THE HEART to do this kind of job and he clearly does not. Politician in charge of our children!! Blasphemy!!! Can any of the victims in this case come forward?

  4. Retired and happy

    It’s all true. Can Matt get a freedom of information request to look at the spending? It’s pretty clear to all my friends that are still teaching that the money has all been diverted to the district office. This kindness stuff is all bs. This guy is killing careers – very insecure and vindictive. Nobody challenges him or they are put on leave. My fiends department had its budget cut in half while he wasted over one million on that capturing kids hearts campaign – now its unlimited you. Charters are not the threat. He is doing everything he can to block students from going to Los Al, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Valencia, Canyon and other neighboring public schools. This will not change until he is arrested because he owns his bosses like Jabbar and picks up the expensive bar bill for drunk Ryan. Please save the district and arrest this guy. The use of the bros for political purposes should be enough to file charges

  5. Retired and Happy: TOTALLY AGREE! The schools are suffering as well as the employees at the schools. When will this group, led by Matsuda, be held accountable for their respective roles in this travesty? Please dig and expose all involved. Our kids deserve better. Our school’s faculty and staff deserve better. The residents of Anaheim deserve better.

    • You all have it only partially correct! I love this blog! “…this group lead by Matsuda…” and “Charters are not a threat…” I cannot tell if these commentators are for the school district or against it?? First of all, Mr. Earnest made a mistake that is costing our district an enormous amount of money. Whether he was the “best principal” Kennedy ever had is definitely of one or two people’s opinion. Secondly, Matsuda probably lacked judgement in writing a letter a recommendation for Earnest, however, the blood is on his hands. Lastly, the charter schools are a threat to this district and every other district in California. Please try to be informed. There is one outstanding accomplishment that Matsuda has done and continues to do and that is to fight the charter schools from moving into our district. This is related to the Unlimted You campaign that someone else complained the district spent money on. And to be clear, I am NOT defending the district and their spending ways. I do think it is important to note the facts, not the rumors, of what and why things are. I do not agree with all of the employees (TOSAs) at the district because if those teachers or curriculum specialists were at the schools we would have fewer students in our classroom. This is something I don’t agree with the district on. It is not well spent money. Also, another commentator mentioned Matsuda picking up bar tabs. This is NOT happening unless it is on his own dime! The regulations for spending money and getting reimbursed is ridiculous. It’s not even worth it. I’m not Matsuda’s biggest fan; he was not qualified for the job and I’m still not sure he’s ready. But there are other superintendent’s doing a worse job so…

  6. The schools in Anaheim produce failing scores all involved can’t dispute that. Why should parents NOT want to improve their child’s chances?

    Do something to change the scores or turn them over to those that care enough to try. It is the law.

  7. Sara makes some good points but I believe that her view is too far to one side. Then the last points by Anaheim are too far to the other side. This extreme polarity is where Matsuda and his axis of evil is able to thrive.

    Our public school teachers take all students and many of them do very well. Several students from every campus will advance to Ivy League universities this year in addition to UCLA and other prestigious schools. The standardized tests show that our schools are also helping special needs students and those learning a new language. To compare Anaheim High to a charter school that excludes all manner of special needs is ridiculous based on demographics and where they started.

    We know that we can do better with money spent on programs at the school sites rather than the district office. Matsuda is so oblivious to the discipline problems that teachers don’t bring their own students to our schools. This can be fixed with better leadership.

    • “To compare Anaheim High to a charter school that excludes all manner of special needs is ridiculous based on demographics and where they started.”

      I’m tired of this myth. It is disappointing that public school teachers and their union representatives continue to propagate it.

      Charter schools must follow the same laws as Anaheim High and every other public school when it comes to the enrollment of special needs students and providing them with a free appropriate public education. https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/ac/spedinchartrsch.asp

      Now back to the issue at hand. Doesn’t AUHSD provide annual training to all its employees on what they need to do to report suspected incidents of child abuse? If these educators did fail to report the suspected sexual abuse to the police, then perhaps they each should be charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.

  8. Ken: Fair and well put statement. Maybe I put it to bluntly but scores are a reflection on how each school is doing as a whole. If a school is underperforming to the degree that it qualifies to be taken over and changed into a charter school there is an issue.

    I do not begrudge the parents wanting something better for their kids.
    Several students will advance yes but how many do we fail?

    Anaheim’s teachers are in a very tough position and it must be very hard to work in this climate.

    Better leadership and getting rid of Matsuda and his axis of evil would be a great first step toward a better future for Anaheim’s youth.

  9. David Michael Klawe

    In today’s OC Register, there is a new Article Titled “Judge slaps Anaheim UHSD with financial sanctions in Kennedy High sex abuse case” and sub-titled “Orange County Superior Court judge also orders school district to turn over documents related to water polo coach and sexual assault at school within 20 days”.

    OCR reported that Judge Robert Moss also gave the Anaheim UHSD 20 days to turn over files related to former Kennedy assistant water polo coach Joshua Owens, other AUHSD employees and potential victims of Owens and sexual assault at Kennedy.

    Judge Moss imposed a $1,350 sanction against AUHSD citing the district’s “failure to provide proper responses lacked substantial justification” for not providing documents to attorneys for the former Kennedy players. He also hit AUHSD with a $1,050 fine for the district’s “failure to provide proper verified responses.”

  10. DMK: Thank you for this update. It is welcome news. Matsuda and company may now have to answer for their actions.

    I hope all of their activities are brought to light and they are held accountable for them. The students and parents deserve better. The teachers and staff deserve better. Anaheim deserves better.

    Anaheim hopefully will demand better.

    Keep it up Judge Moss, keep pulling the evil string this group has woven into our Anaheim schools

  11. Typical for Matsuda to lie and cover up the truth. He spends millions on district office bs , paid leave and severance packages to keep opposition hidden. This man loves communism and his leadership style proves it.
    The district used to sign off on any student that chose to go to a different public school, now he blocks competition and choice…why? Because he is putting out an inferior product. Cuts to programs, no security cameras to protect against bullies, no punishment for the gang bangers. Blame it on the teachers, cops and admin that you don’t like. But never hash out consequences for bad behavior.
    Sad to say that his bros club door knock has been a mastermind move that has insured re election of his puppets Al Jabbar and Annemarie Randle Trejo- so until he is arrested or retires we appear to be stuck with him.

  12. KK: Or bang the drum so hard that the sound can’t be silenced. We all need to stand together and demand more for Anaheim. Thank you Anaheim Blog for exposing their activities and keeping them in the public eye. Please keep this up so that they will, at some point, be held accountable.

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