I’ve heard a lot of crazy things in my life, but I’ve never heard of such stupidity by a school. It seems that Holy Trinity School in El Cajon California would be more understanding and supportive of a soon to be single mother. But it appears that the message they are sending is one of fear.
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. 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.
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.
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.
You can find more domestic violence resources.