The sexual assault victim of a criminally convicted teacher who just years ago lost his job for nibbling on the girl’s ear and touching her inappropriately says she is “scared for [her] safety” after seeing far-left activists defend her attacker as the real victim.
The young California woman, a Hispanic immigrant who The Daily Wire is referring to only as Maria, says she was abandoned by ideologues who often talk about victimhood and female rights after she was abused at the hands of a black teacher with deep ties to the activist left. Matef Harmachis, a socialist and black nationalist, was repeatedly put on leave by the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) in California for misconduct.
The final straw was on May 4, 2017, when Harmachis came behind Maria during study hall and “growled in [the student’s] ear like an animal and then bit or nibbled her ear” for 10 seconds, according to California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Police said Harmachis admitted to “kissing [Maria] on the left ear fairly early on in the interview” and said, “kiss, bite, whatever.”
Three months later, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of battery in exchange for a sentence of one day in jail plus probation. In February 2020, the commission stripped him of his teacher license for “conduct contrary to modesty and good morals,” stating that “parents do not send their children to school to be preyed on, battered, or touched by their teachers.” Maria sued Harmachis, as well as the district for keeping him in the classroom, and won a nearly $1 million settlement, The Daily Wire reported in May.
Maria thought that would be the end of her ordeal. But even after Harmachis was convicted, fired, and settled in court, politically-aligned activists and educators are using leftist politics to erase his victim and excuse his behavior.
The Santa Barbara Independent newspaper in June published an op-ed by a local activist named Marcelino Sepulveda “on behalf of concerned educators in Santa Barbara County.” The op-ed set out to define “the actual facts of the Harmachis case,” and argued that “false allegations of sexual assault by Black men have been frequent, persistent, and often violent phenomena.”
Sepulveda says “a ‘no contest’ plea is not an admission of guilt” and that “Harmachis’s silence on the case was often read by the press as an admission of guilt.” Harmachis did not, in fact, remain silent on the case—he told The Daily Wire last year that Maria was a “Karen” for tattling on him.
Also in June, Sara Bazan, a psychologist who co-founded Ethnic Studies Now! (ESN) Santa Barbara and once worked for a SBUSD contractor, penned an op-ed in the same newspaper stating that she has “witnessed the deep respect and appreciation [students] had for their then-teacher Matef Harmachis.”
“These are dangerous times, especially for people of color,” Bazan wrote. “Legal attacks are a strategy to undermine the work of social justice.”
Maria said these articles, written by individuals who claim to be defenders of women, made her fear for her safety in the community.
“These people are really unhinged,” Maria said. “When I saw those articles I was really scared for my safety.”
Bazan, an “ethnic studies” activist like Harmachis, has frequently opined on women’s rights as well as racial equity. In June 2018, after Harmachis had already been convicted of assaulting Maria, Bazan spoke at a school board meeting—with Harmachis a few feet away in the front row—to complain that assaulting women has become “almost acceptable” in society.
“As a therapist for many years and now as a supervisor at the county mental health clinic, I see the ravages among our young women who are being sexually harassed by our football players,” Bazan said. “I see how rape has become, how rape culture has become common and almost acceptable. What are we doing about that? Ethnic studies encompasses protecting and learning about LGBT community, racism, sexism.”
Maria believes the activist smear campaign against her aims to protect the reputation of Ethnic Studies Now, an activist group with a chapter in Santa Barbara that aims to integrate ethnic studies into public school curriculums. The group also has a track record of associating with child abusers—the executive director of the group’s Washington State chapter, for example, married a convicted child molester and moved her daughter in with him.
“It’s a very tight-knit group dedicated to social justice,” Maria said. “Where it goes wrong it’s, we want this by any means necessary. I honestly don’t think it matters if it means inflicting harm on an innocent person. I don’t understand why I have to be villainized so they can feel better about their ideology.”
“To call me a liar makes them feel better because he can still continue to be part of that organization,” she said. ”When in reality they’re giving a pedophile legitimate access to what they want, which is underage children.”
She said that the adults had successfully implanted their worldview into some of her peers.
“There were people saying I was concocting this narrative to incarcerate a black man. There were black kids who were saying, ‘I could put my hands on you and then I would be put in jail.’ Where did they get that narrative?” Maria said.
Ethnic studies is based on the idea that one should take the side of the powerless, and that some people inherently lack power because of their race. But in the classroom, it was Harmachis who had the power and Maria felt powerless.
“He had all the authority, and I was really scared to report it,” Maria said. “I lost a lot of trust in authority figures, because all these teachers who I thought so highly of weren’t there to defend me.”
Numerous figures in the local education community have defended Harmachis, often invoking his race to claim that the convicted pervert, not the Hispanic teenager, is the victim.
Harmachis’ wife Diane Fujino, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, wrote a letter to the credentialing commission saying she “believes her husband is fit to be in a classroom and that he has addressed any shortcomings he may have had.”
Bazan wrote to the credentialing commission to say, “Mr. Harmachis and myself worked side by side with the youth to support their efforts at establishing an Ethnic Studies course as part of the high School graduation requirements” and that “he, along with myself and our core group of organizers are still working closely with the community and the School District.”
Paul R. Spickard, a professor at UCSB who teaches Black Studies, wrote to the credentialing commission saying, “I understand that there has been some difficulty between Matef and the school district recently, perhaps generated by his unswerving advocacy for his students and for social justice.”
His fellow teachers reiterated the belief that Harmachis was being targeted for his political activism. One teacher, S.A. Jordan, told the commission that Harmachis “was a person who stood up for what is right, and unfortunately, our administration is not comfortable with teachers standing up and facing them.” Another teacher, Anthony Jackson, defended Harmachis even while acknowledging that he “allegedly bit a female student’s ear, allegedly touched her buttocks during hugs, and was convicted of battery.”
Other incidents in Harmachis’ disciplinary record include a time he dragged a boy out of the classroom for wearing a pro-Israel shirt, referred to a teenage student as his girlfriend, told a girl in his class she makes him “forget [he’s] married,” and making a sexual threat to a female student, telling her to “stop talking” or he’d have to “show you what your mouth is for.”
Asked about the legal settlement, Harmachis, who is from Bakersfield, California, but claims to be African and adopted the name of an Egyptian god, told The Daily Wire: “Hotep (peace upon your family).”
Read the Daily Wire’s series on indoctrination and abuse in the Santa Barbara schools:
‘This Is A Cult’: How Wealthy Santa Barbara Foreshadowed The Fight Against Crackpot Curriculum
Radical Activist Teacher Got Away With Shocking Behavior For Years
The Disgraced Teacher Who Took The Name Of An Egyptian God And Radicalized A School District