I have a feeling that there’s much more to this story than what the current news coverage is able to tell us, but the Chicago Tribune reports that the Thanksgiving Day suicide of Mary Thorson, a 32-year-old Ford Heights, Illinois school teacher, is being linked to workplace bullying.
Becky Schlikerman reports on a December meeting that pitted some teachers against school board members (link here):
The suicide note that Mary Thorson left centered on frustrations at the school, and her death spurred some of her co-workers to speak out at the public meeting.
Teachers described an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the two-school district, where little things snowballed over time.
“We don’t feel like we can speak out because we have been intimidated,” teacher Rose Jimerson said at the meeting. “We have signs all over the building about anti-bullying. … Our staff gets bullied.”
Thorson’s suicide is a tragedy, no doubt, but circumstances surrounding her employment status should cause us to withhold firm judgments on what happened. Schlikerman’s article presents two contrasting views of Thorson’s on-the-job performance, with some sources saying that she was extremely popular with students and loved her job, and others saying that she faced disciplinary action for harsh treatment of a student and was distraught about possibly losing her job.
Of course, defaming a bullying target is a favorite tactic of aggressors in these situations. And it’s quite possible that a hostile working environment exists in the school, notwithstanding any demerits on Thorson’s work record. In other words, we need to stay tuned for more details.
Related stories about South Hadley, MA teacher Deb Caldieri: