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The teaching credentials of a former Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) teacher have been revoked after numerous allegations of abuse.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