A view of Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista in 2014. / File photo by Sam Hodgson

Joshua Allen Barney was fired in 2017 as a teacher from the Grossmont Union High School District for inappropriately touching a student and making inappropriate comments. But even after multiple entities agreed with the district’s conclusion that Barney’s behavior was inappropriate and that he was likely to repeat his actions, the state never revoked his credentials.  

That allowed him to return to a classroom, this time in the Sweetwater Union High School District. But less than a week after Voice of San Diego reported on his working for the district, Barney resigned amid multiple district investigations into his conduct. 

Documents obtained by Voice show Barney was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 27. Exactly one month later he resigned, writing, “Thank you for my time in the Sweetwater School District but I would like to resign effectively immediately to pursue a different opportunity.” 

At the time of his resignation, the district was investigating Barney for allegations of misconduct against a student and for providing false or misleading employment information on his job application.  

According to a March 22 correspondence with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing outlining both investigations, the allegations of potential misconduct stem from a comment posted under Voice’s coverage of Barney’s attempt to get his job back after his firing from Grossmont.  

“I go to Otay Ranch Highschool and he has done some similar things to the students. He is way too friendly with only female students and only compliments girls when we workout in the weight room,” the comment reads. 

Upon learning of the comment, and Barney’s previous firing, which Sweetwater said it had not been aware of, the district placed Barney on leave. Nadege Johnson, Sweetwater’s communications director wrote in an email that the district’s investigation had concluded and that it had not found any evidence of misconduct with students by Barney.   

“However, as there were allegations of misconduct in prior employment and evidence of dishonesty in the process of obtaining District employment, we reported to (the Commission on Teacher Credentialing) as required by law,” Johnson wrote. 

Barney wrote in an email that he had resigned because “I knew I was hired as a temporary teacher and it was in the district’s best interest if I were to resign.” 

Sweetwater also opened an investigation into information Barney supplied on his job application. In his application he wrote that he’d left Grossmont because of a “discrepancy in policy.”  

Grossmont fired Barney after a student who attended one of his classes claimed he’d grabbed her under her butt and touched her a couple of inches above her breast during weightlifting training. She also alleged Barney had rubbed a pair of ripped jeans she was wearing and “got really close to my vagina,” the student wrote in a statement. Barney has maintained he did not touch the student inappropriately and did so only to assess whether the student had an injury. 

The student alleged that Barney also referred to her “booty” and “nipple,” rather than anatomical terms. Barney acknowledged saying things like, “You are going to look so amazing this summer in a bikini” and “You can have the best booty ever,” according to a report by the Commission on Professional Competence, which sided with the district on his firing. 

In a follow-up question on his application, however, Barney wrote he had been dismissed or asked to resign from a position. In his explanation he reiterated his claim that it had been due to a discrepancy in policy, writing that “I am currently teaching and my credential is clean as well as my background.” 

According to Colin McGlashen, Grossmont’s director of public affairs, Sweetwater officials never contacted the district to inquire about the circumstances surrounding Barney’s departure. When asked if Grossmont would have shared the reason for Barney’s dismissal, McGlashen wrote, “Yes, if asked.” 

Barney’s claim that his credentials are clean remains true. The Commission on Professional Conduct and a San Diego court sided with Grossmont over his firing, and the professional body governing teacher credentialing recommended Barney’s credentials be revoked. But after an appeal by Barney, the state’s Office of the Attorney General declined to prosecute his case.  

Exactly why that rare step was taken remains unclear. The commission and the Office of the Attorney General has not explained why the case was not prosecuted. But Barney wrote that he believed new evidence that he was not able present during earlier hearings made a difference. 

“When all facts and evidence were laid out, the (Commission on Teacher Credentialing) concluded there was no merit to the accusations, which lead them to determine I was not a danger to students and my credential should be valid,” Barney wrote in an email. 

The decision left Barney’s credentials in place. He is free to return to the classroom. 

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter. He can be reached by email at jakob@vosd.org and followed on Twitter @jakobmcwhinney. Subscribe...

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1 Comment

  1. I have no faith in the Commission on Teacher Credentialing. They allowed Tony Atienza to keep his credential after his inappropriate (to put it mildly) behavior toward students was found to “severe and pervasive” by a district investigation. The Commission did not allow the victims or their families to speak at the hearing but Tony Atienza was allowed to have representation. They are a laughable commission.

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