Pin the Tail on the Victim
It’s rare that a news story makes me angry. But this one managed to get under my skin and infuriate me.
A teacher in California has been fired after her abusive and threatening ex husband showed up at her school, violating his restraining order. The school was forced to go into lockdown until the ex was apprehended by police.
After the incident, the private school put her on leave (and removed her children from the school) and refused to issue her a contract for the next school year. They cite their fears of the potential threat that the ex has to the students and faculty of the school once he is released from jail.
I get the fear. It is extremely frightening to have an unstable person show up at the school, threatening students and faculty. I know. I’ve been there.
I’ve been there with the biological father with no parental rights shows up and tries to kidnap his daughter from the school cafeteria.
I’ve been there when the parent lashes out at the child in a conference, breaking his arm.
I’ve been there when the mom comes in to change the address of record to a battered women’s shelter and files the paperwork to remove the father from the approved pick up list.
I’ve been there as one who had to alert her principal to the possibility of an unstable ex showing up at the school. I felt so embarrassed and so ashamed having to tell my principal about my marital issues and making sure that the front office staff knew his name and what he looked like.
Schools are large organizations with hundreds if not thousands of people that come from all types of backgrounds. It’s only logical that domestic situations sometimes bleed into the school. It is a romantic notion to think that we can insulate our schools from this sort of episode, but unless we remove all of the people – faculty and students – from the school, it is an impossibility.
From everything we know about this particular story, the teacher did everything right. She divorced him, secured a restraining order and alerted the school when he threatened to approach her there.
Yet the school pinned the tail on her.
I worry about the message implied in the school’s response. It may encourage the abused to not seek help. To stay quiet. To stay a victim. By firing her, the school reinforced the ex husband’s power. They may have gussied up their threats on letterhead and refrained from foul language, but they are just as abusive by punishing someone asking for help.
It’s time to stop blaming those who try to get out. To get help. To speak out. Let’s pin the tail on the real asses.