A former Catholic school teacher said she is considering a lawsuit against the Diocese of San Diego after she was dismissed from her job and forced to pull her four children from the school because of perceived threatening behavior by her allegedly abusive ex-husband.
Carie Charlesworth has been on leave from her position as a second-grade teacher at Holy Trinity since January, she said, after her ex-husband, Martin Charlesworth, 41, showed up one day that month in the school parking lot, prompting a campus lockdown until police arrived.
The couple divorced two years ago and Carie Charlesworth said she got a restraining order against her ex-husband because he had been physically abusive.
“I think I did everything that I was supposed to do by informing the principal that this was happening,” Charlesworth told ABC News. “I’ve done everything they tell a victim to do and yet I still got punished because he made the choice to show up to school that day.”
Her husband was arrested Jan. 30 and eventually pleaded guilty to “stalking or making a criminal threat,” according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and was sentenced in April to four years probation and given 365 days in jail.
Martin Charlesworth’s attorney, Aniko Marie Rushakoff, told ABCNews.com her client was allowed to have contact with his ex-wife regarding matters concerning their children. When he did not get a reply from her, Rushakoff said Charlesworth became worried and went to the school parking lot to see if his ex-wife’s car was there.
“He’s always been very apologetic about his behavior,” Rushakoff said. “He has never intended to hurt her or anyone else. His primary concern has always been for his children to make sure they are OK.”
Carie Charlesworth said her four children, who range from kindergarten to eighth-grade students, have not been back at school since the incident.
On April 11, school officials, under Diocese of San Diego letterhead, sent Charlesworth a letter to inform her that the “unfortunate and challenging situation” created by her ex-husband would result in her contract’s not being renewed for the upcoming school year.
“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,” school officials wrote. “Therefore, you will not receive a teaching agreement for the 2013-2014 school year.”
In the letter, school officials said they found Martin Charlesworth’s behavior “sobering” and had found records dating back two decades filed in Alaska that indicated he had a history of domestic violence with previous women.
The diocese has not responded to a request for comment.
A search of Charlesworth’s criminal past by ABC News showed a domestic violence filing by another former wife in 1991, according to Alaska court records. It’s unclear how the case was resolved.
Another woman was named in a 1996 filing, according to Alaska court records. That case was closed in August of that year and a claim was filed by the same woman again in October 1996 in San Diego County Superior Court, according to court records.
Carie Charlesworth took her husband to San Diego County Superior Court in 2011 for alleged domestic violence, resulting in the order of protection that he subsequently violated when he showed up at the school.
The following year, another woman filed a domestic violence claim against Martin Charlesworth, according to court records. It’s unclear how the matter was resolved.
“We feel deeply for you and about the situation in which you and your children find yourselves through no fault of your own,” the school wrote. “It serves no purpose to go through your husband’s legal history, except to say that his threatening and menacing behavior has not changed but has actually increased over the past 20 plus years.”
When Martin Charlesworth is released, Rushakoff said he plans to “find a job and work on himself so he can be a good father.”
“He feels terrible. Absolutely terrible about it, just the idea his family cannot be supported because of his actions,” Rushakoff said.
Carie Charlesworth and her attorney said they are exploring legal options against the diocese, where she had been employed for 14 years.
The mother of four will receive her teaching salary through August 9, 2013, but said she’s already concerned about how she’ll support her family when the paychecks stop.
“I have my good days and my bad days where I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “I have four kids to take care of and I’m the only one.”