Who would Jesus fire?
Catholic Holy Trinity School in El Cajon, California told second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth she is out of a job. Charlesworth’s infraction? Funny story: There isn’t one.
She is a victim of a stalker who happens to be her ex-husband. The school has decided that Charlesworth is too unsafe to be allowed back in school, not because of anything she did, but because of the behavior of her former spouse.
Back in January, the man, who has a history of inflicting domestic abuse, showed up in the school’s parking lot; in a likely overreaction, the school went into lockdown mode. Charlesworth, who is just now coming forward, was put on indefinite leave for three months, then fired.
The letter confirming her dismissal stated:
“…while you were still physically at Holy Trinity School, … the temporary restraining order in effect was not a deterrent to [the ex-husband]. Although we understand he is currently 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.”
“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 kids and I are being punished for something we didn’t even do.”
The children also attended Holy Trinity School, but, like their mom, they haven’t been back since January.
While it’s not difficult to sympathize with the school district and the concerned parents of other kids, who acted out of an abundance of caution, it doesn’t seem particularly Christian to kick this teacher while she’s down.
And her firing doesn’t just affect her and her family: it sends a terrible signal to abused women everywhere, many of whom are already reluctant to speak out. To victims, the prospect of getting fired is surely as daunting, and as effective in forcing their silence, as any embarrassment or fear of spousal retaliation.
Charlesworth does not know where she’ll turn next. The Catholic community that long employed, supported, and literally nourished her is crumbling and retreating around her in the face of a bad situation. She’ll get paid through August, and then… well, no one knows.
It remains to be seen whether her faith will sustain her. “I have not been back to a Catholic church since this happened,” she told a reporter for her local NBC station. “Everything I thought I had, I don’t.”