Before he was a substitute teacher charged with urinating into a cup in front of a classroom full of students, Matthew Davis was known to parishioners as a caring pastor at several Kern County houses of worship.
Davis, 58, was held late Tuesday on a $650,000 bond on multiple felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child and indecent exposure for the incident that reportedly took place in front of students at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Delano.
Davis declined several jailhouse interview requests, but was set to enter a plea to the charges Wednesday morning in Delano.
Davis was critically injured on Labor Day, 1996 in a crash on Highway 41 in the mountains east of Fresno. The wreck, caused by the driver of another vehicle, killed Davis' wife, Linda.
Friends interviewed by Channel 17 at the time said it was a miracle Davis even survived, but that he suffered lingering brain damage from the wreck that affected his ability to interact with other people.
Davis served as a pastor at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bakersfield and a vicar at St. Mark's Anglican Church in Shafter.
"We care very much for Father Davis and his family," said the Canon Bill Gandenberger, a spokesman for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. "We do not have any of the details and cannot respond to any of the charges but we are working with the family on what the next steps would be. We believe this is probably a tragic misunderstanding."
Gandenberger called Davis a compassionate, caring man who often offered advice to parishioners.
He called the charges completely out of character for Davis.
Following the crash, Davis remarried. He had been on a list of substitute teachers compiled by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office since 2001, officials confirmed, noting he had no previous complaints.
KCSOS Human Resources Administrator Sylvia Treanor declined to comment on Davis' case in particular but said all teacher applicants are fingerprinted and receive a criminal background check and a physical.
The physical is a tool to prevent the spread of contagious diseases like tuberculosis and a mental health evaluation is not conducted separately, she said.
"I think we try to do the best job we can in terms of screening the individuals we put into classrooms," Treanor said. "I don't know anybody that doesn't take that very, very seriously. It's unfortunate when a situation like this comes up."
Students said Davis stood in the corner of a classroom during a second period class Monday and began urinating into a cup. Several students reported the teacher to school administrators who said they pulled Davis from the classroom and contacted the Delano Police department.
"Counseling was offered and available to students that might have been upset at the conduct of this teacher," said Cesar E. Chavez High Principal Saul Gonzalez. "I think the students did the responsible thing and immediately reported conduct that was unbecoming of any professional."
Delano Joint Union High School Human Resources Director James Hay said Davis taught in the district between 10 and 15 times. He said, like most school districts, his schools relied on the vetting process used before substitutes are placed on the list issued by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
"This is a small enough district that we are a very close-knit community," Hay said. "The parents have been very understanding and supportive."
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