Stevens High substitute teacher quits over Facebook ultimatum
Carol Thebarge of Charlestown has been working as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher for the past 35 years, accepting assignments at 32 different schools.
Thebarge became a substitute teacher at the age of 44 after the death of a grandchild. She also works as a wedding planner and expects to receive certification as a substance abuse counselor after turning 80.
Thebarge said she was given the latest ultimatum by school officials in the wake of the firing of Stevens math teacher Christopher LeBlanc after he was charged with four counts of felonious sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl in his classroom. (See related story.)
Thebarge was first told to delete the students from Facebook a few years ago, she said. She started to comply, but said after reaching about 50 deletions, the feedback made her stop.
She said some students have seen her Facebook page as a sort of safe haven where they can send her a private message about being bullied or feeling depressed without other students seeing them go up to a teacher for a private conversation.
She will continue with her wedding business and counseling people with drug problems, she said.
"I don't want to return to that school," she said.
"It's not that I don't want to be with the kids, but the administration really let me down."
Claremont School Board policy bars teachers from being "friends" with students on social networking sites such as Facebook, McGoodwin said. He said the high school principal had asked Thebarge to remove students from her "friends" list, and she refused.
He called Thebarge a "very caring person," but said he cannot make an exception for one individual. "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.
"I cannot turn my back because we have a caring person who is friending many students. Because she's friending students and it's very sincere, but other persons have access to that person as well, so that interpersonal friendship is opening it up to many other people."
"In essence, we told her if you cannot comply with school board policy, you cannot work for us. That means we're not going to call her anymore."
"After the LeBlanc matter, everyone was much more sensitive to what has been in place for some time," he said.
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