Zero Sum Ethics Encore: When An Unfair Firing Is Still The Most Ethical Course


Back in June, Ethics Alarms set off quite a donnybrook over a post about a second grade teacher in San Diego who was fired over concerns for the safety of staff and students after the teacher’s ex-husband came to the school to confront her. The teacher protested that the school was abandoning her when she needed support most, which was indeed true. But Ethics Alarms concluded…

“This is the kind of ethical conflict involving competing interests and obligations that only a balancing approach, utilitarianism, can address properly. The husband is Carie’s problem. He is not the school’s problem. It is not the students’ problem. It is not the children’s parents’ problem. I know it’s not an easy problem for her to solve, but she has no right to insist or demand that her inability to solve her problem should be permitted to put others at unnecessary risk…Sometimes ethics is a zero sum game, and someone has to lose. This is one of those times…”

Ethics conflicts (where two or more ethical principles are in direct opposition) necessarily require making tough choices, but many readers didn’t like the analysis, pronouncing it “cold.” “There has to be some other solution,” wrote one commenter. Certainly there are other solutions, but the school was obligated to choose the solution that resulted in the least risk to their primary charges, the kids.

And if children aren’t at risk?

That’s the question raised by the most recent occurrence of the zero sum ethics scenario, in which Nancy Lane, a popular Pennsylvania radio host, has been terminated by her employers because of the threats made against her and the company by her ex-husband. The ex, George Lane, is currently jailed for  impersonating police. In the recent past he has repeatedly threatened Nancy, her family and coworkers, and last year hired someone to slash the tires of several company vehicles at Forever Broadcasting, Nancy Lane’s now former employers, who severed its ties with her by writing,

“Regrettably recent events involving your former husband has caused severe disruption to our business and has made this decision necessary.”

Lane has posted a petition protesting her dismissal. It reads, in part… Continue reading

The Teacher, The Ex, and Zero Sum Ethics

"Carie? Your ex-husband is hear to see you!"

“Carie? Your ex-husband is here to see you!”

Domestic violence victims advocates are outraged over an incident in which second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth, a teacher at San Diego’s Holy Trinity School, lost her job because of threatening conduct by her ex-husband.  After an incident where the school was placed on lock-down because Charlesworth’s ex, undeterred by a restraining order, came to the school to confront her, the school district decided that her continued employment was a risk to the safety of the school and its students.

In a termination letter, the district informed Charlesworth that her ex-husband’s “threatening and menacing behavior” made it impossible for her to continue teaching at the Holy Trinity School. Predictably, Charlesworth is angry, and suing. “They’ve taken away my ability to care for my kids,” she says.  She has four. “It’s not like I can go out and find a teaching job anywhere.”  Now she is publicizing her dilemma to dramatize the plight of domestic violence victims.

She is focusing her resources and anger on the wrong parties. Continue reading