By the edhat staff
A sexual abuse lawsuit against a former teacher and the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) has settled for $950,000.
Lawyers for a former SBUSD student, referred to as Jane OB Doe, state the settlement was reached on Tuesday against the district and former teacher Matef Harmachis.
The lawsuit was filed in late 2020 and alleged Harmachis committed sexual battery and assault against Jane OB Doe and SBUSD performed negligent hiring and supervision.
According to the lawsuit, Harmachis repeatedly sexually harassed, groped and assaulted the victim while she was a 16- and 17-year-old student at Santa Barbara High School. It was alleged that Harmachis’ harassment and abuse of the victim often took place in his classroom in full view of other students.
In 2017, Harmachis was criminally charged with battery of Jane OB Doe. He pleaded no contest and received a criminal sentence. As a result, he had his teaching credential revoked by the state, and he was terminated by the district in March 2020.
Jane OB Doe hired lawyers with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, the same firm that represented sexual abuse victims of former Olympic Team doctor Larry Nassar, former USC gynecologist George Tyndall, and former UCLA gynecologist/oncologist James Heaps; all of which secured multi-million dollar settlements.
“I have never seen a case where a school district ignored so many red flags and allowed a dangerous individual to have unfettered access to vulnerable students,” said the victim’s attorney Morgan Stewart.
In a recent report by The Independent, SBUSD legal counsel stated the district did not admit liability and that the settlement was negotiated through the district’s insurance carrier while Harmachis’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comments.
The lawsuit alleged that Harmachis had a 15-year history of inappropriate behavior with students and was reprimanded over the course of several years. At one point, in 2004, there was an altercation with a student, and then it was additionally alleged he had been making sexually inappropriate comments to female students over the course of the school year.
According to published reports, the district moved to fire Harmachis in 2005, with then-superintendent Brian Sarvis declaring that his presence was “detrimental to students” and that the district “cannot have Matef teaching high school students.”
SBUSD reportedly spent over $1 million in legal fees attempting to terminate Harmachis, who was suspended with pay for nearly five years . Although because he was not convicted of a crime he was reinstated in 2009 after The Commission of Professional Competence found that Harmachis showed “unfitness to teach in some respects,” but that the “conduct does not show such unfitness to teach as to warrant dismissal.”
January 20, 2021: Credentials Revoked for Santa Barbara Unified Teacher