Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

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By edhat staff

The teaching credentials of a former Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) teacher have been revoked after numerous allegations of abuse.

The State of California banned Matef Harmachis from ever teaching again in March 2020 and a civil lawsuit was filed against him and the district on November 30, 2020.

The lawsuit, filed by Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, alleges Harmachis of emotional distress, sexual battery, and harassment while accusing SBUSD of negligent supervision, hiring, and retention.

The lawsuit alleges that, in 2017,. Harmachis committed sexual battery and sexual harassment on a female student during school hours. It states he was placed under arrest and criminally charged where he pled no contest and received a criminal sentence. 

"The abuse of a student by former SBUSD teacher Matef Harmachis in 2017 was reprehensible.  He violated our trust and standards for professional conduct with students. Our sympathies go out to the victim and her family. The district pursued every legal avenue and California Ed code to ban Mr. Harmachis from the classroom," said SBUSD Public Information Officer Camie Barnwell.

In 2005, Harmachis was accused of physical assault and sexually inappropriate comments toward students but was never charged. SBUSD spend over $1 million in legal fees to terminate him but eventually had to retain his employment.

"Our parents, staff, students, and community should understand that the district has worked diligently within the limits of the law and state regulations over the years to terminate Mr. Harmachis even though he was not convicted of a crime. We were unsuccessful in that effort and ultimately had to reinstate him as a teacher in 2006," said Barnwell.

Attorney Morgan Stewart who represents the alleged assault victim stated SBUSD neglected to look after an care for its student body by placing Harmachis in a position harm students, after it knew and admitted that he was a danger.

“Even now, the District continues to regularly invite Mr. Harmachis back onto campus to work with students by virtue of his involvement with the Ethnic Studies Now! group. The District even continues to have pictures of Mr. Harmachis up on their website as part of their Ethnic Studies curriculum,” stated Stewart. “We absolutely encourage any other students, past or present, that were subjected to inappropriate treatment at the hands of Mr. Harmachis to contact Santa Barbara law enforcement. The District needs to wake up and ensure that its students are protected from this predator.” 

Barnwell stated SBUSD was shocked and concerned to see Harmachis attend a meeting held at the district as a member of the Ethnic Studies Now! non-profit organization. She clarified that he was not invited by anyone at the district to attend this meeting and his membership in this non-profit was not within the control of the district.

"Mr. Harmachis is not welcome at any district function or on any district campus. We have conveyed that position to Ethnic Studies Now! organizers in the strongest terms," said Barnwell.

When the district first learned of Harmachis' inappropriate actions in 2017, he was immediately removed from the classroom and placed on leave. While on leave, he was not allowed on any school campus and school administrators were told to report to district officials if he appeared, according to Barnwell.

"We worked diligently and urged the State of California to revoke his teaching credential, which finally occurred March 2020, and permanently banned him from ever teaching again. Mr. Harmachis was officially taken off payroll and his ties with the school district were severed by the Santa Barbara Unified School District on March 8, 2020," said Barnwell.

The civil lawsuit is seeking financial damages on behalf of the victim and her family.

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CS805 Jan 20, 2021 01:32 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Says he was at DP in 2004 and was involved in an altercation with a student which the investigation subsequently found he "made several inappropriate sexual comments to various female students during the 2003-2004 school year." He was then transferred to SBHS where issues continued until his termination in 2020.

giftedinSB Jan 20, 2021 12:44 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Someone needs to go after the Commission on Professional Competence. Unbelievable that they allowed this predator to remain in a position that gave him free access to minors.

Basicinfo805 Jan 20, 2021 01:17 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Wow, the school district has some serious issues on its hands when they are unable to remove a sexual predator from their campus'. That's absolutely unacceptable. Looking forward to hearing more about this. The lawyers will have to pry the info out of them though. The district isn't going to be "transparent", as they say. Who is the HR guy at SB Schools? I hope he/she has a big fat headache right about now. They should. What a disgrace.

dukemunson Jan 20, 2021 01:22 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Without a conviction (as per the outcome in 2005) it's quite difficult to fire a teacher. The teachers union (like the police union) goes to bat for every teacher no matter what.

Hooray Unions in the 21st century...?

doulie Jan 21, 2021 09:40 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Anyone know how to obtain a copy of the teachers union contract? I'd like to read where it is written a teacher cannot be terminated/reassigned after an incident as being discussed. Sure, a union will go to bat for a member, but, how many strikes are they allowed in support of a member before they can become a defendant in a civil suit?

SBLetsGetAlong Jan 20, 2021 02:05 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Absolutely disgusting they let him in again after the 2005 allegations.
He played the race card in 2005 saying the only reason the district acted against him was because of his race.
So race outweighed the minor victims rights.
Could you imagine being a teenager, abused by a teacher, mentor and then having to speak up publicly about the abuse.

Poor kids.

But SBUSD has had a few of these type of scenarios, just recently there was the head custodian at the HS who was arrested for using peep holes, possession of child porn & abusing a minor. The district never stated if he is still employed despite numerous patents asking on their board zoom calls.

Then there was the DP Principal who left his last position because of sexual misconduct, that SBUSD apparently didn’t bother doing a simple Google of his name.

And the MAD academy incident.

This guy is in the schools also teaching “Ethnic Studies”. Is it his culture that abused minor females?

Guys this are hideous and should be tar & feathered at a minimum and never allowed anywhere near children again.

Good ok’d SBUSD rolling over and not doing everything to protect children.

How many other children has this guy abused in the last 15 years?

Glad I don’t have children in SBUSD.

PitMix Jan 20, 2021 03:36 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

If you have a good teacher who is unfairly targeted by the School Board or a principal, the rules work to protect the teacher. If you have a bad teacher who knows how to work the system, the rules work to keep them employed far longer than they should be. It is pretty normal for human systems.

dukemunson Jan 20, 2021 03:49 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

We just keep seeing example after example of teachers and police officers who make mistakes/are bad and the union works the system for them. This isn't normal...the vast majority of people who are bad at their jobs and/or do something that was wrong/illegal (but perhaps not definitively provable) can be let go. You continually defend the teachers union...yet they are a horrible organization that is actively working against the common good.

Paxateur Jan 20, 2021 04:29 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Mindsets like those laughably present in every single tidbit of local news Duke, BasicMisInfo805, & the VoiceofTreason are what inhibit progress in our town and the nation, but given very very recent events, that is about to change and your outrage will no longer be required. Booyah!

Voice of Reason Jan 20, 2021 04:55 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Pax, thanks for thinking Duke, Basic and I have so much influence but that isn't the case. Santa Barbara and CA has been a single party town and state for decades know. A single party has the super majority in the state legislature and they pass whatever we they feel like. Yet public education is the near the lowest it's been, the teachers unions won't let public schools open until they get their pound of flesh, poverty/homelessness at an all time high, failing electrical grid, inability to deliver EDD, one of the highest income inequalities in the nation, yet it's Duke, Basic and I that are inhibiting progress. Time to hold you/our elected leaders accountable, the failure is their responsibility alone. (maybe also the people the keep voting them in year in and year out expecting THIS is the year they'll finally make progress).

dukemunson Jan 20, 2021 05:41 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Who is Downvoting someone for being bummed out that it took 12 years and multiple additional sexual crimes to fire a teacher??? I know I shouldn’t care pitmix.. but that is odd... no???

oops Jan 20, 2021 03:40 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

DP sports has had more than their share of issues under Feldhaus. The Principles don't want to deal with the a result, taxpayers are liable for damages. No real accountability in the system, afraid to confront the Union - it's own swamp

oops Jan 21, 2021 09:22 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Google the hazing lawsuit which recently occurred on the baseball team, another coach resigned "wanting to spend time with family" when in actuality there were many parent complaints...that person is now coaching at another school . Watch out for verbally abusive coaches, Feldhaus protects his own. If you see or hear about abuse- write an email to the head of SBUSD with all the SBUSD officials on copy - they have no choice but respond and take a formal complaint and investigate.

sacjon Jan 21, 2021 11:31 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

OOPS - Yeah, I'm very familiar with the hazing lawsuit. That was beyond hazing, that was a disgusting and demented act by some seriously screwed up kids. I don't think you can blame Feldhaus for what happened. I can see frustration at the response of the school, sure, but you can't blame the athletic director for the actions of a couple dirtbag kids. I was more concerned you'd heard of something directly attributable to Feldhaus himself.

oops Jan 21, 2021 04:47 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

He is the AD, the buck stops with him, he hires and fires (or not)! His first loyalty should be the kids, not the coaches. Good luck with your experience!

sacjon Jan 22, 2021 09:26 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

OOPS - I get that, but I feel he addressed the issue with the principal. The coach is gone, the players are graduated out and now there are strict anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies in all sports teams at the school. My kid is loving his experience now and is with a great group of athletes. Just hope they can finally play a game soon!

Lorax Jan 20, 2021 04:46 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

I'm sure the law offices of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi would be interested in hearing of other vicims.

2005 to 2017 is a long time moved between two Santa Barbara School District schools, who else has possibly settled out of court in one of the "closed door" sessions. Matef Harmachis has an AKA previous name of Leigh Nowel Barker.
My concern is he is aligned with Ethnic studies now! and just last week they aproved an Ethnic studies class. I hope one of the books is not "Black Panther Afterlives" the enduring signifigance of the Black Panther Party co authored by his wife Diane Fujino.
Governer Newsom The end of last year vetoed the requirement to require Ethinic Studies in high schools until 2023 so it would be more inclusive. We need to mend the divisivness to move forward and protect our children!

RobinSB Jan 20, 2021 05:54 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Ok so SBUSD just confirmed my worst fear.

We put 3 kids through SBUSD and i can say it was a joke. The level of education was substandard and the lack of any extra curricular activities was the first insult. The lack of accountability was the second insult...Now i see SBUSC spends $1MM trying to fire someone who is clearly unfit, and cant get rid of the person! Yet, this "system" of education continues to just roll on. I'm sad to have to pay any $$ in taxes to this system, but more sad for the poor quality of education for our kids, and the utter negligence that the administration shows, plainly. So f'd up they can't do the right thing. SAD SAD SAD and gross negligence of this SBUSD administration. More sad we have to trust them with our kids.

TaxiOnna Jan 21, 2021 08:40 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

I went through the SBUSC system starting in 4th grade and graduated in the last 15 years. I have nothing but good things to say about it, and myself as well as many of my peers went on to matriculate to ivy league institutions where we flourished academically and socially due to the good education and opportunities provided by these world-class public schools.

doulie Jan 21, 2021 09:28 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

I was glad to read Harmachis is also being sued for "punitive damages." When the victim prevails in this case this money will be coming directly out of Harmarachis' pocket. Harmarachis could be paying the amount awarded for a long time. As important, this sends a message to others at the SBUSD to report incidents as required or they may pay monetarily for their negligence.

Lorax Jan 20, 2021 08:36 PM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

wow, I knew this guy was connected, has the whole school board in on his "game" but the SB Library!!!??
Hope they will remove his book Black Panther Afterlives from recomended list, hardley a pilar of the community and does a dissevice to thoes advocating for Equity.

Watcher237 Jan 21, 2021 08:29 AM
Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Teacher

Another example of a dysfunctional and corrupt education system, which WE pay for! This teacher was flapping in the wind for the past 15 years or so, and who was paying attention? No one cared. Grow some spine administrators!

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