Deb Caldieri is the former South Hadley, Massachusetts teacher who dared to criticize her school’s response to the bullying behaviors that preceded the 2010 suicide of teenager Phoebe Prince, and then bravely testified before the Massachusetts legislative committee in support of the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Sadly, outrageously, today she appears to be paying a heavy price for doing the right thing. Jobless and suffering from multiple sclerosis, she is struggling, as her update — posted to this blog last week and reprinted below — clearly indicates.
If you’re unfamiliar with the full story, read on.
Events of 2011
In 2011, Deb’s situation was championed by Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, who first broke the story of how Caldieri was being bullied by South Hadley school administrators, and then wrote a follow-up piece:
The persecution and humiliation of Deb Caldieri, the teacher who responded to the suicide of Phoebe Prince with a compassion so utterly lacking elsewhere in South Hadley High School, is complete. She was fired last week.
Gus Sayer, the school district’s superintendent, sent a letter to Caldieri – who went on unpaid medical leave in December because of her multiple sclerosis – saying he couldn’t wait around any longer to see whether the symptoms would subside enough for her to return to work. Those symptoms got worse after Caldieri was punished for speaking out about Phoebe Prince’s treatment at the high school.
Cullen went on to describe the supposed efforts that Sayer made to contact Caldieri to discuss her situation. The full column explains how this played out, as Cullen did an excellent job of interviewing Sayer in an effort to get to the heart of the matter.
Deb received her final termination notice from the South Hadley school system in 2011, just weeks after testifying in support of the Healthy Workplace Bill before a Massachusetts legislative committee. Her testimony attracted statewide media coverage, and it is unlikely that this escaped the attention of the South Hadley school administrators. The timing of her termination — the final step of a long process of pushing her out of a job and career — struck me as being much too close to be a coincidence.
I hadn’t heard any news about how Deb was doing until the day before Thanksgiving, when she left a comment on this blog:
I would like to thank those individuals that wrote in with their support, those that perhaps sent a much appreciated check early on, and, of course, Professor Yamada, and Greg Sorozan, who originally invited me to speak on behalf of the “Anti-Bulling” Healthy Workplace Bill. I do hope that there is someone still out there who will stumble upon my email and know in their heart and soul how much gratitude I felt to all of just reading your comments today, November 27, 2013. You see, Phoebe would have turned nineteen on the twenty-fourth. She and my youngest son shared a birthday. Four years ago is when the sparkle left my little “Vita’s” (her Latin name) because of a tragic event that the law kept hidden… In addition to losing my :”VIta,” I’ve lost my career, income, independence, the use of my legs; my seizures can’t seem to be controlled due to the constant stress, my children (also a single mom) are traumatized; I need physical, occupational, and psychological therapy, and the only money I get from the state is 326.00 in food stamps per/month. So, I choose the days I will eat something..
The final straw is that I am still waiting for a hearing for my “Accidental Disability,” which now has been pushed to the end of February.
p.s. That account was closed at Peoples. Thank you again for your kindhearted donations.
As you can see, she’s going through a very rough stretch right now. I’ve reached out to Deb and offered to help pass the hat on her behalf. If she’s okay with that, then I’ll provide details on this blog. She certainly deserves our support.