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Teacher at Catholic school loses job over ex-husband's actions

Diocese of San Diego says it fears that the inmate, serving time for domestic abuse, could pose a threat to those at the El Cajon school after his release.

June 14, 2013|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth, here with one of her four children who were removed from the school, has been told her contract will not be renewed.
Second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth, here with one of her four children…

SAN DIEGO — A veteran teacher at a Catholic school has lost her job because school officials are worried her ex-husband, now serving a jail sentence for domestic abuse and stalking, will pose a danger to students and teachers when he is released.

When Martin Charlesworth, 41, showed up at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon in January, school officials put the school on lockdown and called police. By coming to the school, he was in violation of a restraining order, court records indicate.

Later, school officials put second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth on "indefinite leave" and removed her four children from the school.

Since then, Charlesworth, 39, has been on paid leave but recently was informed that, after 14 years as a teacher in the San Diego Catholic diocese, she will not be offered a teaching job for next school year.

"Please understand that this was a very difficult decision to make, and we are deeply, deeply sorry about this situation," the diocese's director of schools wrote. "We will continue to pray for you and your family."

Charlesworth said Friday that she and her children are being punished for her ex-husband's volatile behavior. She said she is unsure how she will support the family.

"I was shocked that they were going to leave me without a job," she said. "It was devastating."

Meanwhile, her ex-husband, listed on jail records as 6 feet, 230 pounds, is to be released June 28 from the San Diego County Jail. Soon after the school incident, he pleaded guilty to felony counts of domestic abuse and stalking in violation of a restraining order.

Martin Charlesworth, a former teacher, was sentenced to 365 days in jail, minus credit for time already served and good behavior. Once released, under a court order, he must wear a GPS monitor and stay away from his ex-wife.

Martin Charlesworth's attorney said her client had only gone to the school to discuss custody issues and is apologetic about the incident. "He just wants what's best for the children and Carie," said attorney Aniko Rushakoff, who represented him during the criminal proceeding. "He still loves her very much."

Carie Charlesworth said that based on her ex-husband's earlier behavior, and an argument the two had the previous weekend, she was physically afraid of him when he showed up in the parking lot of the school.

"I followed all the things they tell domestic abuse victims to do," she said. "Now I feel I was the one who got punished. This is why other victims do not come forward."

In their letter advising her that she would not be rehired, diocese officials said their lawyer had checked public records in California and Alaska and found that her ex-husband "has a 20-plus year history of violence, abuse and harassment of people — mostly women — and he has continued the pattern to the present."

After the case was reported this week on local TV, Rodrigo Valdiva, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, issued a statement saying the diocese "has acted responsibly in addressing the Holy Trinity School personnel matter with concern for the safety and well-being of both Carie Charlesworth and the children enrolled at the school."

Some 30 parents staged a rally at the school in a show of support for the diocese's decision.

Kenneth Hoyt, Carie Charlesworth's attorney, said that he plans a lawsuit but that "it's going to be an uphill battle." Diocese teachers are on one-year contracts that are written so that the diocese has seemingly unrestricted ability to fire even a veteran teacher with years of highly regarded service, Hoyt said.

Carie Charlesworth has a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a teaching credential, but teaching jobs are scarce in the current economy. After 14 years in diocese schools, including the last four at Holy Trinity, she was earning $37,000 a year.

"I'm just trying to figure what to do now," she said. She considered moving away from San Diego County or possibly going back to college to start a new career — maybe nursing — but said that she has realized that both ideas are financially impossible.

The couple has sons 9 and 11 years old and twin 7-year-old girls. Under the divorce decree, Carie Charlesworth, who lives in Spring Valley, has custody of the children, but Martin Charlesworth has visitation privileges.

"We'll probably be in a shelter after he's released," she said. "But we can't live life in fear. The kids need a normal life. Hopefully, he'll abide by his probation report."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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