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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Lost My Teaching Career

by Stephanie Barahona
(Nashville, TN)

I worked as a teacher for 15 years without incident and had a spotless record. A new special education teacher came to me in distress because some third grade black teachers had been rude to her. She went in to introduce herself, and they both basically laughed at her. One said, "Who this cracker think she is?" I knew what type of people they were and it disgusted me that she was treated that way and the kids even heard it too.

Both principals were black too, but I knew they wouldn't think it was professional to act like that. I decided to tell on them and my principal was glad at the time that I did. However, someway the word got back to them that I was the one that told. I was really sorry I ever did. I ended up losing my job.

One of the black teachers assaulted me finally, but the way staff handled it...I got arrested and lost my job over it. I thought my principal would protect me, but she did not. The teacher would humiliate me in front of other staff and students. Then she would run and tell the facts to our principal, but do so in a way that ended up making me look like the problem.

I begged my principal for a sit down meeting where we could get our problems worked out with a third party mentor. I asked three times and was denied all three times and basically told to be quiet about it.

I was crying in my room on a regular basis from the things they would do to me. I got so distressed that I asked co-workers what to do. That would come back to haunt me. I was so upset when I talked to some of them that I mentioned that I might put my hands on her if she hurt my son. My son was coming to that school and I begged my principal not to put him in the classroom of the person bullying me.

She held it over my head for about a week like she was actually considering putting him in there...just to be controlling. All of the ESL students were in her classroom in the third grade, and he was an ESL student at that time. There were only 10 days left in the school year, so it really didn't matter where she put him. However she enjoyed taunting me with her power.

I made some stupid statements to colleagues that I would hurt the other teacher if she hurt my son like she did me and treated him bad. It was in private conversation, but ended up being used to fire me. My principal was tired of hearing about me being bullied and didn't want to deal with it. It hurt so much because it basically invalidated me.

She ended up putting my son in another classroom after making me anguish about a week and wait for her decision. Any decent person would've said of course I wont put you through forcing your son to be in the classroom of your person who is bullying you. Not mine...she enjoyed making me wait a week to find out what she "felt" like doing.

She had my colleagues to write up statements against me citing our private conversations to use as evidence to fire me. They didn't want to, but didn't have a choice. However, I didn't know they had done it the morning the other teacher assaulted me.

We were in an area where there we no adult witnesses (visually). I walked up to let her know I was taking the children out of her care that I serviced. It was in the middle of having to evacuate her classroom because a disturbed child had a meltdown and was destroying her room. When that happens, all you can do is get the others to safety and let them destroy whatever they want to until they calm down. We are not allowed to restrain them in any way.

I know she was upset because she had a beautiful classroom that was being torn apart and had to basically sit back and watch it happen. I walked up to tell her I would be taking three children I serviced with me. One of them had a parent that was there to eat lunch with him at the picnic we were having that day. His mom was going to come upstairs, but I wanted to get him downstairs before she came up because I knew if she saw a child acting violently and tearing up a classroom she would be worried.

I went up to say I was taking the children and she put her hand up in front of my face and wouldn't let me speak. I asked her to treat me as an adult and not talk down to me like a child. It was actually the 1st time I had ever said anything "back" to her. She was used to me silently walking away every time she talked down to me. It angered her that I said anything back to her and she took her hands and jabbed them in my chest. I didn't retaliate.

As soon as she did it she started yelling that I had pushed her. She knew no one actually saw it, but realized she needed to convince everyone that I was the one that started it. Other teachers within earshot heard her and came to assist us. No one saw except the children. She kept saying I had pushed her first, which I knew was wrong, but at the time I didn't understand why she was lying about what all those kids had seen.

I didn't worry. I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. My principal took me to an office and I requested she take photos of the red marks on my chest. I did not have access to my purse or cell phone. She dismissed me as usual and said she was busy typing up documentation.

My principal said I was not allowed to call police. She knew police had to be called, but she wanted to be the one to do it. I complied. She pretended all day to believe me and treat me as the "victim." The whole time she was working against me. She wouldn't let me come in the next room where they were reviewing the camera footage. I stayed in that same office for 5 hours and she pacified me by acting like she believed I was the victim. She was plotting against me.

She finally called police, but took them to the other teacher first. The other teacher had not been confined all day and moved freely, collected allies, and made everyone believe I had actually pushed her. I was shocked when the police arrested me for assault. I begged them to just ask the children what happened, but they refused since it was time for dismissal and they said they would need parent signature to do so.

They used my statements against me that I had made earlier to friends I had confided in to determine that I would lose my career. When I had confided in those ladies I was in tears and emotional. Of course I said things I wished I hadn't. I was referring to what I would do if she mistreated my ten year old son. They used my statements from before I knew which classroom he would be placed in to determine firing me. That was not the scenario that had happened, but it didn't matter.

The statements made me look guilty but were taken out of context for the most part. I lost my 15 year career. I decided to resign, because they said they would give me neutral references.

I went to court for the assault charges three times, but the other teacher wouldn't show up. The DA tried to get her to, but she didn't want to come, so it was dismissed. I had already spent 6000 in legal fees and never recovered it. I got the dismissal expunged.

I still cannot get a job as a teacher or even at the pawn shop or as a secretary. I think they are releasing my info which they said they wouldn't do if I would resign. I cannot get jobs way below my skill set. All of this happened on Friday May 13th, 2016. I am still suffering. My kids don't have health insurance and I am unemployed.

I have worked all of my life, since I was 16. The principal advised the entire faculty to have no contact with me whatsoever (I just found out). A parent told me the kids were told not to talk about what happened that day or they would be in trouble. I guess what hurts the most is that I left my career in a legacy of "troublemaker" is associated with my name. It hurts so badly because it is untrue, and there is nothing I can do about it.

The teacher that assaulted me got into trouble this last spring (2018) for stealing at that same school. She will probably get to keep her job if she pays back what she took. That's what someone told me that is keeping up with her situation. She was a few weeks pregnant when she assaulted me, but put on the police report that I assaulted someone who was obviously pregnant...no one even knew...she was fat and it was just adding insult to injury.

I would appreciate any feedback. I filed a report with the EEOC in a timely manner when the incident happened. Her getting in trouble stealing has planted the seed in my head that there is hope for Human Resources to finally believe me. I just want my name cleared and the truth to come out.

I was such a dedicated teacher. I have lost my self worth and identity through it all. I used to feel important, but now I no longer care or dress up or put my makeup on. I want my dignity back. I want the truth to reveal itself.

My principal quit the following year and is currently selling real estate. There are many people from my old job who still shun me.

I feel my chances for getting any kind of a job are terrible because even though they said they would give me a neutral reference, I don't think they are. I worked there for so long I have no choice but to list them as a previous employer.

Some colleagues sneak and talk to me. I lost all of my personal items in my classroom.

Comments for Lost My Teaching Career

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I am sorry black people treated you this way.
by: Teresa

As a black woman, I want to say I am sorry other black people with mean mentalities treated you this way. I know the situation was very traumatic and unfair. I am very angry with the black women who bullied you. I want to say I am sorry, and not all black people are crazy, mean or hate white women. I am a black woman and I still get treated badly by black people. I hope your experience with this kind of black people does not make you label all black people as bad. I know I have no control over anyone's behavior no matter what race they are. In time I hope you are able to heal and move forward with your life and understand you are not at fault doing standing up for what is right.

I'm currently going through something similar.
by: Anonymous

First, I just want to hug you. I've never believed the saying "no good deed goes unpunished" more in my life. I also work in education and I also stood up for a colleague who was being mistreated and I rue the day I helped her. (This colleague I helped turned against me and pubically humilated me at a professional development workshop. Thanks a lot). Keep fighting. You have rights and they were clearly violated. It bothers me that your colleagues conciously took your words out of context to indite you. I'm so sorry this happened to you; just know that you are not alone.

You can find out what kind of reference they r giving you
by: Anonymous

Hi, You can find out what kind of reference you are getting from the former school if you can get a friend to make up a story that they are considering you for employment and contact them. From my experiences, many employers no longer give any references at all because they are afraid of being sued.

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