Teacher pleads 'not guilty' to lewd acts with students

Former East Palo Alto English teacher allegedly engaged in sexual acts with two 15-year-olds

A former teacher at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy pleaded not guilty to sex charges on Tuesday, Jan. 5, in San Mateo County Superior Court, said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Danielle Matko, 33, of Belmont, is charged with two counts of engaging in oral copulation with a person under 16 by a person over the age of 21 and four counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child age 14 or 15 by a person at least 10 years older. All are felonies. The incidents allegedly occurred between Sept. 1 and Nov. 14, 2015, according to Wagstaffe.

In September, she was talking with a male teenager in her classroom during a free period and allegedly showed him her bare breasts, allowing the teen to touch them, and she rubbed his private area, according to the district attorney. On two other occasions, while the 15-year-old student was staying late in her classroom, Matko allegedly kissed him, pulled down his pants and performed an intimate act on him, according to Wagstaffe.

In November, the teen and a second 15-year-old male student were in Matko's classroom when she allegedly removed her blouse and let both victims touch her bare breasts, Wagstaffe said. The teens told their friends about the incidents.

One of the victims was involved in an after-school program where a legal aid lawyer was present and reported it to the lawyer, who called police, Karen Guidotti, assistant district attorney, said. She did not know if the legal aid lawyer was there in his official or personal capacity.

Guidotti said there is a photo on one of the boys' cell phones that corroborates their allegations.

She said she would not go into any further details regarding what the photograph shows.

Matko has denied the charges and claims the youth are fabricating the stories. She appeared in court with attorney Nathan Puri and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Matko also waived her right to a speedy preliminary hearing. She will return to court for a preliminary hearing on March 23.

Matko allegedly attended one of the teens' soccer games in December when she was out on $150,000 bail, the district attorney said. On Tuesday, Judge Mark Forcum issued a protective order against her directing no contact with either of the youth and increased her bail to $250,000. She posted that bail on Jan. 5 and is out of custody, Guidotti said.

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Like this comment
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm

I don't get this statement in the article: ..."charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a dependent while being a caretaker..."

This is not covered in the article - what does it refer to? The entire article deals with the students in her class.

5 people like this
Posted by sounds very unlikely
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 7, 2016 at 12:18 am

but who knows?

9 people like this
Posted by MP Mom
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

The kids went to a legal aid lawyer first? This story isn't sounding right and lacks merit to splash this teacher's name all over the media at this juncture. I truly hope there is more substantive evidence than heresay from these boys to ruin this woman in this manner. Ofcourse these things can happen, but it seems quite a premature rush to judgment.

14 people like this
Posted by Shame on you
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 7, 2016 at 11:42 am

@MP Mom and @sounds very unlikely

If this had been a story about two kids from Palo Alto high school, there'd be no denying there was truth to it. But because they are young men from East Palo Alto, their truth "sounds very unlikely"? Young men of color being overly sexualized is a part of their everyday reality. How dare you tell them it's a farce. The boys went where they had access. There is a legal aid facility close to the school. They went where they felt safe. A lawyer is a lawyer, and they needed help.

[Portion removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by Tired of EPA bias
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 7, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Thanks "Shame on You" for putting this right.
Not only it would have sounded differently if it was the opposite (minority teacher and white kids) but also the title is misleading: the teacher is not FROM East Palo Alto, she was teaching IN East Palo Alto.

7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm

@ MP Mom and others: Read the article again please. A friend of the victims went to a legal-aid lawyer, not the victims themselves. Sounds like a good friend to me.

9 people like this
Posted by Robert DiMenna
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I think "Palo Alto on Online" needs to stop propagating HEAR-SAY, and report FACTS.
When all is said and done, the facts may be very, very different, meanwhile they have destroyed this woman's life. I believe printing children's Hear-say is totally irresponsible.

7 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 7, 2016 at 2:36 pm

As a long time East Palo Alto resident, I find the boys' accusations rather odd. Of course it's possible and maybe they are victims. But I'd find the accusations rather odd no matter where they took place. [Portion removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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