SAN DIEGO: A domestic violence dispute with an ex-husband caused one woman her teaching job. Carie Charlesworth, a second-grade teacher at Holy Trinity School in San Diego, was placed on indefinite leave and then let go because school officials feared her ex could put students and other staff in danger.
The incident giving rise to the firing took place in January when Charlesworth’s ex-husband showed up outside the school. “Basically, we’d had a very bad weekend with him, we’d called the sheriff’s department three times on Sunday . . .,” said Charlesworth, referring to [the] incident that put her leave of absence in motion. She went to her principal the following morning and told the principal to be on the lookout for her ex-husband.
When the ex-husband showed up, the school was placed on lockdown and Charlesworth was “put on indefinite leave”. A letter sent to Charlesworth said that school officials were concerned about her ex-husband’s “threatening and menacing behavior,” and as a result they “cannot allow” her to continue teaching at the Holy Trinity School. Charlesworth and her four kids, who also attended Holy Trinity School, have not been back since the January incident. A letter was sent home to parents the following day, explaining the situation and noting Charlesworth and her children were being put “on an indefinite leave.”
Parents made their concerns known. They didn’t want their kids in the middle of a domestic war. Several of the parents, said the district did the right thing in a no-win situation because they feared for the safety of their own children. Some of the parents were part of a movement to “pull kids out of the school” if Charlesworth returned.
Three months later, Charlesworth received another letter informing her that she was being let go for good and that she would not be permitted to teach at any other Diocesan school. She is being paid through August. Her ex-husband is scheduled to be released from Jail at the end of June.
Her attorney, Kenneth Hoyt, intends to file a lawsuit on her behalf, but said it may be an uphill climb because of the “Ministerial Exception.” As part of her duties Charlesworth taught religion, and even though it was a small part of her daily lesson plan, there’s legal precedence showing she can be fired without cause just like a priest or pastor.
Statistics indicate that Charlesworth’s ordeal is not especially uncommon:
A 2011 study by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center’s Project SURVIVE found that nearly 40 percent of survivors in California reported either being fired or fearing termination due to domestic violence.
According to a 2006 report authored by Legal Momentum Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, up to one half of domestic violence victims report that they have lost a job due, at least in part, to the violence in their lives and 50 percent of sexual assault victims report losing jobs in the aftermath of the crime.
Outraged Domestic Violence Advocates fear this kind of response will force victims into silence: “Victims of domestic violence need support, and when they are punished for the behaviors of their abuser, it only reinforces the message that no one will help them and no one cares,” Smith said. “It would have been so much better for them to work with her to determine increasing safety plans at her current school, or to look at options to move her and the children to another location so she could continue to support them and the children could continue their education.”
But is this a naïve approach to a dangerous problem that even the courts can’t stop? The court’s best solution for protecting domestic violence victims is the restraining order. They are a dime a dozen in domestic violence cases. But abusers tend to be obsessed with the object of their abuse. Their focus is intense and not grounded. A stressor leading to a snap can end in violence not only to the victim but to everyone around them. There are countless examples of it. Restraining orders do little to stop the violence. The door revolves, the perpetrator goes in on a restraining order violation then comes out in as little as 48 hours later, more angry, more obsessed.
Is it reasonable to think that the school was in a better position to make Charlesworth safer than the court system?
The talking points for both sides are compelling. But the wrong decision could cost lives.
Here’s the question for debate: If Charlesworth had said nothing to warn the school, the school would have been at blind risk of potential violence from the ex- husband. Alerting the school allowed for time to put safety measures into place. And as they did here, once the ex-husband made his appearance, the school went on lockdown. However, once the school has been made aware of the potential for danger, should it assume the risk when the safest thing to do would be to eliminate the reason for violence on school property in the first place? Take the survey.
(Source: The Huffington Post)
- Teacher Fired Because Her Ex-Husband Is Abusive (newser.com)
- Teacher fired because of abusive ex-husband (fox5sandiego.com)