San Mateo County

Former East Palo Alto Charter School Teacher Pleads Not Guilty to Committing Lewd Acts With 2 Students: Prosecutors

A 33-year-old woman who taught at a charter high school in East Palo Alto has been charged with allegedly committing lewd acts with two students, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Danielle Matko, a Belmont resident who taught at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of committing lewd acts on minors between September and November, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Matko was an English teacher at the school at 1039 Garden St. and allegedly showed her bare breasts to a 15-year-old student in her classroom and let him fondle them while also touching him inappropriately, prosecutors said.

Matko also allegedly engaged in inappropriate conduct with the teen after school hours on two other occasions. Then in November, she allegedly let the teen and another 15-year-old student touch her bare breasts in her classroom, prosecutors said.

The students told their friends about the incidents and one eventually reported it to a local legal aid lawyer who called police. Matko has denied the allegations and said the students were making it up, prosecutors said.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said there is no video or independent witnesses to confirm the incidents, so the case "effectively relies on both boys."

Matko was remanded into custody on $150,000 bail after Tuesday's hearing and San Mateo Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum issued a protective order banning contact between her and either student, prosecutors said. She will return to court for a preliminary hearing on March 23.

Matko's attorney, Nathan Puri, was not immediately available to comment on the case. Officials at the charter school, which is on winter break until next week, were also not immediately available to comment.

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