Texts between Yuba City teacher, girl used as evidence
Text messages between a popular high school math teacher and a former student prove Manuel S. Barajas believed the former student was 18 years old when a janitor caught him touching the girl in his classroom last year, the Sutter County district attorney said Wednesday.
New details have emerged regarding allegations against the embattled River Valley High School teacher.
A misdemeanor child molestation charge was dismissed earlier this month, but it remains unclear if Barajas, 31, will return to the classroom next year – or ever.
“I imagine the school district may still have a problem with it, but from a law enforcement perspective, the girl was neither a student nor a minor,” District Attorney Carl Adams said Wednesday.
According to the district attorney’s office, in July of last year, a janitor walked into Barajas’ classroom and found the math teacher touching a girl who appeared to be a student. The girl was laying on her back on top of a table, the DA’s office said.
“He said (Barajas) was touching her, but could not be specific about what occurred,” Adams said. “Both were dressed.” Prosecutors dropped the charge because of uncertainty regarding the age of the girl, who had recently graduated from the school.
“Further investigation supports the defendant’s contention that he had a reasonable good faith belief the victim was 18 years of age at the time of the alleged incident,” according to the request for dismissal filed July 11 at the Sutter County courthouse.
Text messages between Barajas and the girl proved she told Barajas she had turned 18 one month before the incident, Adams said.
“He believed she had celebrated her birthday in June and the main issue for us was whether or not she was a minor at the time,” Adams said. River Valley students rallied around Barajas shortly after his arrest, proclaiming his innocence and praising his teaching abilities.
A Facebook page dubbed “Mr. Barajas is Innocent” is followed by more than 1,000 users. The page has kept up with court appearances and encouraged letter writing campaigns.
Following news of the dropped charge, page posts began encouraging students to contact the district directly and demand Barajas be reinstated. School officials have been silent on the issue, except to say they are aware of it.
Tom Walters, superintendent of human resources for the Yuba City Unified School District, said he could not answer any questions regarding Barajas employment status or whether he was still on administrative leave with the district.
Attempts to reach Barajas directly have not been successful.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.