Catholic School Fires Teacher Who Survived Domestic Abuse
Not only did Holy Trinity School in El Cajon, California fire second grade teacher Carie Charlesworth on account of her being a survivor of domestic abuse, the school also said that her four children, all students at the school, could no longer go to school there — in effect, “firing” all of them.
So much for Holy Trinity School teaching, as its webpage says, “values by example.” Somehow, firing someone who has been having such personal difficulties does not seem conducive to creating a “Christian atmosphere.”
Charlesworth had been a teacher at Holy Trinity School for 14 years. She was fired not for anything related to her performance in the classroom but because of the school’s fears that she could be a liability.
Last January, as Charlesworth tells KNSD about her ex-husband, “we’d had a very bad weekend with him, we’d called the sheriff’s department three times on Sunday with him.” The following morning, she told Francie Wright, the principal of Holy Trinity School, to be on the watch for her ex-husband. He showed up in the school’s parking lot and the administration put the school on lockdown.
Afterwards, Charlesworth and her children were “placed on an indefinite leave,” according to a letter sent by the principal. Then, in April, Charlesworth was told that the school was firing her, according to a letter from education officials in the Diocese of San Diego, Tom Beecher and Bobbie Espinosa. While saying that “we feel deeply for you and about the situation in which you and your children find yourselves in,” the officials write that
“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.”
As Charlesworth says to KNSD, her being terminated from her job and her children no longer being allowed to attend the school felt like a punishment “for something we didn’t even do.”
While Charlesworth is to receive her salary through August, there is no question that the school has made a difficult situation for her and her family even more challenging. “They’ve taken away my ability to care for my kids. It’s not like I can go out and find a teaching job anywhere,” says Charlesworth. Her ex-husband is currently incarcerated on felony charges and is to be released at the end of June.
A number of parents whose children attend Holy Trinity School say that they support the principal’s and the Diocese’s decision as it was made to “protect all of our kids, her kids included,” as parent Jennifer Grubbs says. But another parent, Theresa Ososkie, calls it “shameful” for Charlesworth to be fired especially as she had done the right thing: “She came to the principal, told her the situation. And I think in that regard, protected the children.”
Indeed: a 2011 study by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center says that, in California, almost 40 percent of survivors of domestic violence reported being fired from their jobs or fearing termination.
Charlesworth — who has been offered a job in a different city – says that she is hopeful that talking about her story can draw attention to what survivors of domestic violence go through. As she says, “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.”
Please sign the petition to tell Holy Trinity School to rehire Charlesworth. She should be supported, and certainly not penalized, for going out of her way to speak out about domestic violence.
Photo from Thinkstock