CHARLESTOWN, N.H. – A 79-year-old substitute teacher quit her job after school officials ordered her to delete thousands of students from her Facebook page and she refused.
The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that Charlestown resident Carol Thebarge has left Stevens High School.
Thebarge has been working as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher for the past 35 years, accepting assignments at 32 different schools.
“Today will be my last day at Stevens High,” Thebarge said, in a Facebook announcement. “I was given an ultimatum; to either delete every student from my Facebook page and do not post pictures of them, or be terminated.”
Thebarge said school officials gave her the ultimatum after a math teacher was recently charged with sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl in his classroom.
She said she started deleting students, but stopped after about 50 when she had students start asking her what they did wrong.
Thebarge said some students have seen her Facebook page as a place where they can send private messages about being bullied or feeling depressed.
School Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said that Claremont School Board policy bans teachers from being “friends” with students on social networking sites such as Facebook.
The superintendent said the principal asked Thebarge to delete students from her “friends” list, and she refused.
“In truth, being a caring, lovely woman doesn’t give you immunity to ignore a school board policy that’s designed to protect everyone,” he said.
Thebarge said she has had a wonderful career and did not want things to end this way.
Carol Thebarge's Facebook announcement to students and parents:
Today will be my last day at Stevens High.
I was given an ultimatum.
To either delete every student from my facebook , and do not post pictures of them ( they always loved this ) or be terminated.
Those of you who know me and my philosophy in life, that of marching to the beat of my own drummer would assume I would choose the latter of the two choices.
And I did.
The reason for this post, which I so sadly write tonight, is to avoid any rumors to the contrary and explain to the parents and students who are inboxing and calling my home tonight , why this is happening..
I have never, once, been deemed inappropriate on my site.
It has served both the students and myself well.
The students in the manner of many inboxes of varied requests.. for help from bullies, which I have seen through.. to mothers inboxing me to ask where they could get help for their children.
This deletion process was requested of me 4 years ago , by the same administrator. At that time , I could not begin to fathom on where to begin. Now I have over 3000.. the parents that I had in kindergarten, to those I had in the sixth grade who are now grandparents. It was like picking a needle out of a haystack. And when I did delete at that time, I had students that were asking me "what did they do wrong that I would do this to them.. " And then I hid my list.
And I realized that I , who always taught them to "live their truth" , was demonstrating deceit. So I unblocked it and she left me alone. Until Now.
I have blocked many students due to inappropriate language or posters... derogatory remarks about one another, and they have asked for a second chance. And I do this and some immediately clean up their act. Those who do not? Blocked.
It has been a sad day for me. Not the way I planned to end a career of 35 years, 32 schools K-12 . The students have loved my site. I have loved to share pictures of the cats, my grandchildrens' achievements, and the wisdom I have gained throughout my journey. I have brought posters here that uplift ones Spirit, and always considered my site and messages those of Character Building.
I have never once, written here, anything against a teacher, the administration, or a student. If this was so, by all means, I should not be allowed the privilege of having students on my site.
I will continue to stay in touch with all of them here. No man or institution will dictate my relationships here, or otherwise that are within the range of my own consciousness. This is not rebellion.
It is standing up for my beliefs... for silence and compliance is agreement.
"The letter of the law kills, and the Spirit gives life."
Carol Thebarge then went on with a new post to school administrators,
~ An Open Letter to the Superintendent and Administration of Stevens High ~
My first inclination here tonight, is to express my deep disappointment in all of you.
So before I go on to my second thought, which I imagine is from a Higher Source , for it will deal with compassion and prayer for you, I will express why I am experiencing this sense of sadness within myself...
It has not been pleasant, seeing the headlines of the local and State papers carry my name and termination across the headlines of their publications.
It has not been easy to watch my picture and the stories on Channel 9, Fox News and Channel Five from Boston.
I did not call them. Parents and students did.
What bothered me the most, was reading , or watching comments from you , Middleton, that it had been requested of me to delete students and their pictures 2 years ago from my facebood account and the administrators not know this had not been attended to.
After Frank called me into his office and said it was "Either compliance or termination " , I told him I wanted to see you.
He mentioned that the policy was 4 years old, and perhaps could be modified.
You sat in your office with me last Wednesday and were perplexed as to "why the deletion was requested of me." After all, you stated, "You are in the privacy of your own home, with your own computer.. I see nothing wrong with this."
You said you would investigate it and get back to me.
You never did.
Instead, when exiting the building on Thursday, when asking Frank the "verdict" as I stood at the bottom of the staircase, he gave me one word. "Compliance". So I said , " I cannot do this." No offer to sit down, no invite to an office. That was it. And he walked away. I was so disappointed Frank, I thought we had more of a respect for one another than this.. and that moment crushed me.
35 years of service in the area, 11 years at Stevens...and I was left with one word. "Compliance".
I am not looking for gratitude, but in its absence? It is glaring.
I feel you both were unprofessional in trying to resolve the issue.
Above all, it has been devastating for me to have students saying good-bye to me, as though they would never see me again. And some will not. But I will be here for them. Look at the video below these posts. It says it all as to WHY I would not remove pictures or delete their names. It was a gift today, from a friend who sensed my pain
. I , for the past ten years have also been their photographer at every graduation and prom. They loved their pictures brought here to share among themselves. You all knew this also.
This announcement to the community and my refusal to comply which determined your decision to terminate my position, follows on the heels of the arrest of Chris Leblanc. And many feel they know the reason why.
You felt the need, ( at my expense ) to communicate to the public, that you would "clean up" any further threats of non-safety to the student body.
Instead of doing this a week "before" the incidents, or waiting a decent interval, ( to tell only ME to delete students ) why did you choose this time, which placed myself under suspicion of wrong -doing .
Also Middleton, you lumped my name on your TV interview with this criminal teacher, by saying, you are "looking out for the safety of the students."
I was sick over this.
Rumors came to my attention here in private mail, and even to my home by the dad of a former student who was concerned about my well-being that the perception out there was that I "somehow" had knowledge of this perpetrators mind-set and did not report it. Have you any idea what this did to me? I, who have protected children, not only my own for 60 years from all harm, but the ones in my charge for the past 35 years.
By hearing all of these perceptions,. it led me to write my initial letter here to explain WHY I had to leave.... which created the fire storm , that not only you are experiencing, but has affected my life with tremendous impact.
You then state publicly that I did not comply two years ago.
I did. It was like looking for needles in a hay stack so I asked the students to aid me by deleting my name on their own accounts. After 50, I detected the hurt when they would ask me what they did "wrong" for they had difficulty accepting the letter of the law in place of the Spirit of Acceptance of who and what they are. So I stopped,. And you ALL knew it. And let me share the proof of my statement:
The statement that you did NOT know, is a barefaced lie.
Frank, you knew I was on facebook, months ago, when I helped you advertise your restaurant, "The Hitchin' Post" and told you it hit 124 shares. You allowed me to take your picture a month ago on the stairway with a student when you were dressed alike. I smiled, and said "Facebook" and walked away. You then call me in your office ten days later? And tell me I cannot take pictures of me with students??? I have your son on my guest list and different times asked him to show you certain portions of my postings. I also have students of those on the School Board. And they know it.
Lets move on.
Ms Ezen : You were the one two years ago that brought me in your office, sat me down and proceeded to show me "how" to delete the students. You knew I had not completed this request, but mercifully, left me alone. Two years later, just 7 weeks ago, you asked me into your office again, knowing I had a certain student that the school was concerned about. You asked me to sign INTO my facebook and bring him up. After your investigation, I returned to the classroom. You never uttered a WORD about having this or other students on my account. In other words, you used me. Correct me if I am wrong, and I will stand corrected, but I DO believe you are the one that ignited this storm, that "someone on the staff reporting MrsT".. for this is your Modus Operandi. You have two faces. One for your continual apologies after you decimate someone with your remarks about their inadequacies in their teaching strategies and the other bouncy smiley one as if everyone is happy with you. I have literally held one teacher that cried in my arms, saying she did not know if she could continue. An exceptional teacher that brings students to success , and parents request her. Shame on you. One after the other , fearful that you , in your classroom assessments could have them lose their homes at any moment, fearful to speak up!
The day I approached you, my last day there, to ask you to discuss the issue with you, you told me "I do not want to talk to you." And then snarling at me, ( had not yet seen that face ) said loudly, "MAKE AN APPOINTMENT!!" Well ! Arrogance, ego and nastiness all in one bundle does not make for a happy exit for one such as me.
Try to be a bit kinder in your drive by drop in critiques of those who ARE expert in their field, that you reduce to insecure beings. I questioned you once, on how you could justify all of these "recommendations for improvement" for these 30 year educators when you had never had experience in a classroom. I will not bring your answer here. I do not want you to look silly.
Now for my prayer for you , Middleton.
You know how I liked you in the beginning of your move here.
I was so struck with your goals, your interest in the students.
I felt kindred with you many times.
When others trembled with fear , ("Perhaps I will be the next to go",) I took note of what I thought was paranoia spreading through the faculty.
I even told you one day, that you were not "cutting positions; that it was wholesale massacre . I told you that I was writing a letter to the board about two beloved teachers , and we still held that respect for one another. Those two were later reinstated, but one had to wait a year without income. Shameful in view of the fact that her mother also served 45 years at CMS as a beloved educator.
As time progressed, I found myself in an atmosphere of total fear... one cut after another... and now, this massive removal of four core teachers.
Recently, Mrs Irish, the former school board member mentioned she would not vote for another budget. And her reason? "You asked us to find the best and the brightest. And we did. And now they are gone."
She is not the only one that feels this Middleton. The parents do. The students are crushed. They are bewildered, confused and frightened. First the perpetrator, the math teacher is found to be a fiend among them and they are traumatized. Many told me they could not sleep. Then a social studies teacher, an English teacher/coach and 2 math teachers are dismissed. And to think you on community TV had the audacity to demean these young vibrant hopeful educators as you inferred it was "their fault" ... "Poor performance" when in reality they did nothing wrong but teach in a fantastic manner... and it was your grading system that brought them down! You owe them an apology. This is not the way to earn respect from your employees.
Who wants to apply now? Who wants to come to your building and sub? Ironically, the day I was terminated, I was the one to train your new sub . Who wants to move to Claremont when the teachers are so terrified of their jobs that prospective homeowners think, "Why do teachers keep leaving, why are they fired? "
You know how I have a friend that was recently fired. A teacher of 17 years from the Middle School who has been stripped of all of her rights, who was told without reason, to leave the building, and was not allowed back into her own classroom to pick up her personal belongings. She is later told by her students that they had to watch through the door while this Principal rifled through her desk. I read through the "charges" I see she was late a few times. I see she borrowed a students cell phone for an emergency. I have done the same, as I have witnessed other educators do. I also know this Principal at Middle school forbid two vice-principals to speak with her and although you had been informed of this, you chose to ignore it. What kind of Administrator is this, that you tolerate such behavior, that her own Asst Principal could not be in the presence of the cruelty and mind control of this woman. And he appealed to you.. and nothing was done. He is gone He walked out. I just heard of all of this tonight else I would have been advocating for her before. I really thought it must have been of a serious nature. Staff had warned the both of these people they were being "targeted". And I cannot believe what I read where you wrote about her, that if she is found "on any property in the school district, " meaning any school lawn even, "She will be arrested!" I could not believe my eyes. This would terrify me if written about me. This is bullying at its legal best. And she was left powerless.
Who wants to take a chance of working in a system that is treating their teachers in this manner? This teacher will not receive benefits, she is three years short of her pension ,and yet all of her evaluations were pristine.and now my final question. Why, when others were offered this, was this teacher, who many of her former students , now at Stevens tell me they loved, and would never forget, why, was she not offered the school improvement plan, to improve what you felt was not up to her usual good performance?
Someone said to me today, the issue that I am challenged with was the "tipping point" that is bringing things to the boiling point, that facebook is only the decoy for a greater happening to take place.
You are straining at gnats and swallowing camels on one hand, and on the other hand, cutting positions of vital importance both academically and emotionally for the students. All I hear from the retired teachers when I encounter them, is "Thank God I am out of there".
And here is where the prayer comes in.
Those that you are in charge of, are trembling in their boots.
My last day, I entered a room where 8 were sitting. I asked why they were not "fighting the cuts of the four", where was their courage?
And you know what they said Middleton?
"We are broken."
Try walking in one day and LISTEN to what they need.
The students are so unhappy in that building, the parents are unhappy, the teachers have never been unhappier. They are , truly "broken in Spirit."
I am gone. I am still in shock of how this went down and feel you all threw me under the bus for a "policy" that is so outdated, so non-productive for the students and staff and is based on non-trust. why are some so afraid of new technology. Facebook is a SOCIAL network, and used properly, which I have, is a wonderful tool to teach character , proper sentence structure, and a place to find help when others are not there for you.
I am not a rabble rouser here. The issues in the district have hit a critical mass.
I am a woman who attempts to heal, not harm.
To fix, not break.
Now, I know you are a man of God. I have seen you pray.
You need to allow God to maintain and sustain His Own Image which may only be discerned in the Silence as inner beings of Light , but having the full right to perform their vocations in peace , and free from intimidation.
You need to eliminate the fear from your buildings.
The educators are totally demoralized. And it is tragic.
My home is paid for. My car is paid for. I have other income.
Many of your teachers wonder "when the other shoe will drop".
And they will lose their income. So they dare not open their mouths.
This is likened to being held in a mental hostage state.
I will pray for you and the healing of your school system.
Renovation is taking place with brick and mortar.
Renewal needs to take place in the hearts and spirits of your employees .
I have an adult child your age,. I am one that sees such goodness in you.
You are in charge. You can make a difference.
Please , self-evaluate , and do the right thing.
I know I did.
Oh, and my concern about a potential walk out tomorrow?
Had you invited me to speak that day in the gym, it may have made a difference. They respect me. I would have told them it was not the way I taught them..to choose another way.
I hear you threatened them with suspension. I hope this is a false report.
Please gift them and allow them their freedom to peacefully release their frustration.that have taken place over this past month. Give them space.
.The song above says it all...
As for me, .I am walking away with my dignity while knowing that they are all us... only with different faces on...