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Should she have been fired?

Posted by on Jun. 12, 2013 at 10:51 PM
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 Domestic Violence Victim Fired From Teaching


A San Diego teacher was fired by Holy Trinity School following a domestic violence incident involving her ex-husband.

Second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth is out of a job, but not for anything she did in the classroom. Her school district considers her a liability and too unsafe to have around following a domestic violence dispute that happened earlier this year.

A letter sent to Charlesworth
said that school officials are 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.

"They’ve taken away my ability to care for my kids,” said Charlesworth. “It’s not like I can go out and find a teaching job anywhere.”

The mother of four children didn’t think this would ever be her story to tell, but she is using her name and showing her face in hopes of bringing attention to a larger problem.

It’s a story that has domestic violence advocates outraged, fearing it will only reinforce an age-old problem where victims stay silent — but equally concerned are the school's parents, not wanting their kids in the middle of it.

“Basically, we’d had a very bad weekend with him, we’d called the sheriff’s department three times on Sunday with him,” said Charlesworth, referring to an incident in January that put her leave of absence in motion.

She went to her principal at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon the following morning and told the principal to be on the lookout for her ex-husband. As many domestic violence cases go, this one has a trail of restraining orders and 911 calls. When Charlesworth’s ex-husband showed up in the school parking lot, the school went into lockdown.

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.”

While Charlesworth’s husband went to jail on two felony charges, she says she felt like a criminal too.

“And that’s what it felt like, the kids and I were being punished for something we didn’t even do,” she told NBC 7 San Diego.

Three months later, another letter arrived in the mail delivering a crushing blow. Charlesworth was fired for good, and after 14 years in the district not allowed to teach at any other Diocesan school.

The letter stated:

"We know from the most recent incident involing you and Mrs. Wright (the principal) while you were still physically at Holy Trinity School, that the temporary restraining order in effect were not a deterrent to him. Although we understand he is current incarcerated, we have no way of knowing how long or short a time he will actually serve and we understand from court files that he may be released as early as next fall. In the interest of the safety of the students, faculty and parents at Holy Trinity School, we simply cannot allow you to return to work there, or, unfortunately, at any other school in the Diocese."

When asked for a response, Tom Beecher, Director of the San Diego Diocese Office for Schools wrote in an email to NBC 7 San Diego: “The diocese does not make public comment about personnel issues.”

Several parents at Holy Trinity, not disclosing their names out of safety concerns, said the district did the right thing in a no-win situation because they feared for the safety of their own children. Several parents mentioned being part of a movement to “pull kids out of the school” if Charlesworth returned.

“I mean that’s why women of domestic violence don’t come forward, because they’re afraid of the way people are going to see them, view them, perceive them, treat them,” said Charlesworth.

A 2011 study by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center shows Charlesworth isn’t alone: Nearly 40 percent of survivors in California reported being fired or feared termination because of domestic violence.

Charlesworth’s attorney Kenneth Hoyt, who intends to file a lawsuit on her behalf, said it may be an uphill climb because of something called "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.

“I have not been back to a Catholic church since this happened” said Charlesworth, who admits her life has been turned upside down because “everything I thought I had, I don’t.”

She is being paid through August, but doesn’t know where she’ll turn next. Her ex-husband is scheduled to be released from Jail at the end of June.

by on Jun. 12, 2013 at 10:51 PM
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Replies (1-10):
by Sister on Jun. 12, 2013 at 11:00 PM

This is a tough one.

While I want to say no.......all I can think about is my son.

What if he went to that school??

3 calls to the sheriff in one weekend. Sounds like the guy is off is rocker...and would likely do something unexpected.

by on Jun. 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM

She needed their support not fired...couldnt they have made safety measures in this day and age...I mean anyone can come in that place and do anything nowadays...they need to be worried about her ex...

I know we are worried about our children but she is worried about hers also...they have to eat...

by Sweet Mary <3 on Jun. 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM
This is so, so wrong on all levels! I hope the lawyer wins her case.
by Fang Slayer on Jun. 12, 2013 at 11:17 PM

How very sad....she is victimized in another way that does hinder her ability to provide for herself and her children. None of this is her fault but she has to pay the price.

by Sweet Mary <3 on Jun. 12, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Where is the support from her employer, the parents and co-workers?

Are we that withdrawn from society that we just drop the kids off and go about our day? Do we not interact with teachers about our children?

Yeah, it is a public place and yeah we entrust the teacher to educate the children, but to put her on leave is wrong.

Who knows what the POS sitting in jail is conniving....

What if this had been you? Your whole world turned upside down because your husband either threatened you, beat you or emotionally crippled you.

Here in the state of Maine it's illegal to fire anyone for domestic violence... Regardless of the situation.

Quoting maryg38:

This is so, so wrong on all levels! I hope the lawyer wins her case.
by Bronze sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 1:33 AM

She sure got the wrong end of that stick. I hope she takes the school to court.   Grrrrrrr. That's all I can say, now.

by Silver sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 1:42 AM
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Sad for her, very sad. BUT,  I don't blame the school at all. Seems to me they made the right decision.

I suppose if she were a church member, perhaps they would try to help her, but that is separate from being an employee there.

It places kids in undue danger, it could potentially cost the school increased funds in security, it creates negative publicity for the school, etc. I see no good really, except for her personally to remain. She should have quit on her own really. As a parent, I'd actually be angry that she didn't quit/ take a leave of absence on her own, instead forcing the school to make the decision.

Seems like she really has only her own interest at heart, not the kids.

by on Jun. 13, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Not right. Dont they lock the doors during the school day? They do here in mich. . We live in a small town and to get in the school during the day you buzz the office and they see who is there then they will buzz the person in .

by on Jun. 13, 2013 at 6:31 AM
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 Wow...this is a really tough call for me. While I disagree with the school putting her on leave, I can also understand WHY. Given the number of calls and "liability" of all those students...boy I just don't know. I feel incredibly BAD for her, but do you risk the student population for this? There are some real crazies out there...let us not forget the children of Sandy Hook. Schools have security measures but many (like my own kids school) are not fool proof. If she were a private sort of gal (prior to this incident) and never let on that anything was wrong...and her s/o wanted to get in...he could have EASILY buzzed through those doors.

I just don't know...I hope this is ended quickly so she can return, but I guess I don't blame the school for considering the safety of the students. Is it a bit much...maybe, but what if this action just saved a bunch of students? I would rather shy on the side of caution than regret.

by Bronze sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 7:00 AM
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Her option is to find a teaching job somewhere else and move without telling her ex-husband where she is.  Other people's children cannot be put at risk--particularly in a private school setting where they rely on tuition to pay the bills. 

If she is employed "at-will" as a teacher, then she can be terminated for any reason, as long as it is not related to her being part of a protected class (and domestic violence is not a Federal protected class).  Religious schools are complicated from a legal standpoint and *may* be exempt from some laws.  The bottom line is that it will cost the employer  to provide extra security for her situation and, if they do it for one employee, they have to do it for all of them.  The costs for any employer would be outrageous.

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