Wednesday, September 04, 2013

San Diego Diocese punishes teacher and her kids for being victims of domestic violence

These parents support the decision to throw out a teacher and her children who were victims of domestic violence from Holy Trinity School.

I understand that the parents at Holy Trinity school might be frightened; school violence in the news in recent years has made a lot of people terrified, if not a bit paranoid. But I think parents and school officials reacted in a mean-spirited and ineffective manner when teacher Carie Charlesworth's husband demonstrated what school officials called "threatening and menacing behavior" at the school.

Perhaps he said something that made people uncomfortable. Or maybe just the fact that he was there was perceived as a threat. So the school fired his wife and expelled his children.

Of course, there's no guarantee that he won't come to the school in the future; he could become angry that his children were expelled and his wife was fired.

I think the Church abandoned its basic principles far too quickly in this case. If there really is a danger from Charlesworth's husband, then why doesn't the Diocese do something about that, rather than force public schools to deal with it?

As a nation, we have always had to balance safety and freedom. We chose to take a different road from Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

I have an answer for a diocese that arrogantly challenges critics with the unspoken question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The answer is YES.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Domestic Violence Victim Fired From Teaching Sues Diocese of San Diego (VIDEO)
"They should not treat people like this," said domestic violence victim Carie Charlesworth
By Steven Luke
NBC News
Sep 3, 2013

A domestic violence victim fired from her East County teaching job is now suing her former employer, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego. NBC 7's Steven Luke reports.

A woman who was fired from her teaching job after a domestic violence incident involving her ex-husband has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

Carie Charlesworth was told to leave her second grade teaching position at Holy Trinity Catholic School in El Cajon earlier this year after her husband demonstrated "threatening and menacing behavior” on school grounds. Tuesday afternoon, she filed a lawsuit in San Diego’s downtown superior court.

“I want to accomplish change, I want them to know they should not treat people like this,” Charlesworth said.

The single mother of four children became the source of intense social and moral debate in June when NBC 7 San Diego first reported her situation. Dozens of parents at Holy Trinity School came forward to show their support of the school, which they say put safety as a first priority. Advocates for domestic violence victims said the firing marked a significant step back in the ongoing fight to empower victims to speak up.

The suit names the Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego as a defendant along with several people holding prominent positions within the diocese. NBC 7’s phone calls and emails to the defendants were not returned.

Fighting the Catholic Church on employment disputes is historically an uphill battle. As a religious institution they have more legal latitude, discretion and protection in firing employees.

“My contract with the diocese held me to a standard they didn’t uphold themselves” said Charlesworth.

Earlier this year, Charlesworth traveled to Sacramento to fight for Senate Bill 400, which would not only prevent employers from firing victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, but also require companies to make efforts to protect them.

Charlesworth’s attorney says his lawsuit is based on the district’s own contract with teachers, which requires them to follow the precepts of the Catholic Church.

“When there was a speculative danger to the school community, the church’s doctrine says ‘We need to pull together, we need to protect the school and Carie and her children.’” said attorney Ken Hoy. “To do less is to breach some of the most important Catholic principles that exist.”

Charlesworth’s four children are also named as plaintiffs because they were expelled from the school last spring as a result of growing concern about their father’s erratic behavior.

“They still were following the rules of the school, they were good students, good kids, they had no reason to be expelled from a school” said Charlesworth.

The complaint also seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation.


Carie Charlesworth is fired because of “threat” from abusive ex-husband

by adrakontaidis
Real Talk Real Debate
June 15, 2013

Carie Charlesworth, a veteran teacher of 14 years, was fired from Holy Trinity School in El Cajon (a San Diego county) because of her ex-husband’s actions. Carie’s ex-husband, Martin, is currently in jail for violating his restraining order. In January, Martin showed up at the school and was promptly arrested. Shortly thereafter, Carie was placed on “indefinite leave” and her four children were removed from the school. Carie was recently told she was being let go of her job because of the “threat” her ex posed to her and the school children.

The diocese’s director of schools wrote: “Please understand that this was a very difficult decision to make, and we are deeply, deeply sorry about this situation. We will continue to pray for you and your family.” Carie says she and her children are being punished for her ex-husband’s actions. She is unsure of how she will support her children. After all it isn’t all that easy to get a job nowadays.

Martin will be released from jail on June 28th. Carie said she was frightened of his January appearance because they had two prior arguments before that forced meeting. Carie said that Martin has ruined her life. She did everything they tell abuse victims to do. Carie states her situation is exactly why more woman don’t come forward of their abuse.

The diocese thinks they are doing what is in the best interest of the other children attending the school. Their lawyers uncovered a 20+ year history of domestic violence towards others—especially towards women. Furthermore, Holy Trinity teachers are only signed on one-year contracts and can be let go for any reason. The technical terms of her contract allow for the legality of her firing.

I’m outraged that a precedent has been created in which abuse victims are continued to be tortured by their abusers. Why should this man be legally allowed to dictate this woman’s life? At which point did this woman forsake her rights? Her life? At which did her children forsake a normal childhood?

The diocese has every right and responsibility to protect the other students of the school; but doesn’t it also have the responsibility to Carie, a 14-year veteran of the school. I understand this is a precarious situation and a difficult one for the school to handle. However, I feel like they basically have cut all ties to her and have essentially told her “I hope you are okay but we’ve officially stopped caring and by the way good luck out there with your psycho ex-husband.

Another aspect of the story that infuriates me to no end is the fact this “man” somehow can continue to abuse others for over two decades yet gets a “slap of the wrist” in his sentencing. He abuses his wife and gets less than a year in jail. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich got 14 years for trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat. Explain that one to me.

Couldn’t there be a police presence at the school? If this guy comes again to school he should be arrested indefinitely. Granted I think he should have already been imprisoned indefinitely. As I stated earlier, I think this creates a dangerous precedent that abuse victims will be less forward in revealing their plights. Additionally, the legal system should not allow the abuser to continue to dictate the lives of victims. It’s simply deplorable.

What do you think?

Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate

San Diego Domestic Violence Victim Fired From Teaching

Second grade teacher Carie Charlesworth was fired after a domestic violence dispute involving her ex-husband
By Steven Luke
Jun 13, 2013

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 involving 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.

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