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Should she have been fired?

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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
Replies (11-19):
by Silver sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM

They don't all lock doors, nor do all even have gates/fencing around campus. remember the Sandy Hook guy also started in the office. I don't know if it is in an enclosed building, or wide open spread out campus.

At our private school, it's a closed campus, with cameras. but, if you are going to the church, a funeral, whatever, you have direct open access to the school. I've never liked that... Always thought that was bad planning on their part.

Quoting mamalynnsmith:

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 Silver sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Seems to me she could go to a public school, that is if she has a degree and credential, which isn't required in the private ones.

Im not sure what the answer is, perhaps some advocacy group to help her find the right job, or help with income. 

years ago at a hospital, we had a nurse in a similar situation, she even carried a gun. She ended up being fired over that, but it was a real problem. her husband would hassle her at work, hassle other staff, take up work time and cause a lot of frustration. An employer isn't there for personal and domestic issues. I think if something like that interferes with ones job, they need to take a leave.

I realize it isn't her fault at all, but often things aren't our fault yet it still affects our daily lives and we need to deal with the consequences. Just like our neighbor neurosurgeon who is going blind...or another neighbor who had to leave her job for her spouse with cancer to care for him. These are not the employers responsibility, but still ours to deal with. A job in itself is not an entitlement.

excuse typos, on an iPad.

by Wild Woman on Jun. 13, 2013 at 11:00 AM
I'm torn as to what I think should happen. Her ex could go crazy and go to the school and really let loose ! I understand it from the schools point and feel horrible for her because she is the victim and yet being treated like the criminal by being fired. The school has to think of the kids safety. This is a hard one.
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by Silver sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 4:26 PM

it's sketchy.  tough to call.  the human spirit can only bend so far before it breaks.  i think she was probably feeling broken at the time.

by Bronze sister on Jun. 13, 2013 at 5:50 PM
1 mom liked this

I feel awful for the teacher, but they have to put the children's safety first.

by on Jun. 13, 2013 at 6:17 PM

If this clause exists in her contract, her lawyer will be hard-pressed to prove her firing was indeed illegal. Her firing was shitty and unfair but the school has the legal standing, unfortunately.


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.

by Snowl :) on Jun. 13, 2013 at 6:31 PM

Wow the school should have given her a retirement package. How sad for her kids and family.  I understand the school has to do what they feel is right and private schools can have different rules.

by Manning Fan on Jun. 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

 No, I dont think she ought to be out of a job; but I can  see the school's side, too. With all the school violence, a man who has attacked his ex before, on school grounds, cannot be taken lightly.

by Support Sister Team on Jun. 17, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Most of the stories that I have seen only show what happened after that one particular weekend.  We have no way of knowing if her family, the school, etc. had provided as much "support" to her in all of this as they possibly could and that the situation had reached a point where the school had to take the kids' welfare into account over the teacher's job.  

I, personally, would want the school to be concerned about such things.  If he was that unstable, there is no telling what he would do just to get to her, and what could happen to those in the way of her....too unstable, if you ask me.

Virginia is a no-fault employment state.  They can fire you without even giving you a reason.  

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