Keep up with all the chapters at the book page of Facing Hate: Overcoming Social Smearing, Recovering Relationships, and Rebuilding Your Reputation.
Early in our marriage, Wendy and I set a goal to travel from coast to coast with the children. But my first teaching job paid a depressing $14,900 per year. It would take a miracle to fulfill our far-ranging dream. Still, we were filled with love and optimism, so why not set the goalpost high and aim for it? Wendy and I prayed for this impossible goal to be met, and we were most confident it would be fulfilled. Our plan? We figured I’d write a bestseller and we’d use the funds to spend on a cross-country roadtrip. Perhaps God saw my first draft and wasn’t impressed, so he came up with an alternative plan.
You may recall that I had a frustrating time settling into the teaching profession in the late ‘90s. I taught in three districts over five years, never fitting into the various dramas of the public school system. I loved teaching, but the political and administrative hassles made the career difficult to tolerate. I started a small business on the side, creating source material for academic debaters. Students — particularly homeschoolers — bought it up. So began an audience of homeschool debaters, and I became the sole publisher of source material for the small market.
I traveled to national tournaments during the summers of ’99 and 2000, and wouldn’t you know it? God blessed our goal. The first trip was to Virginia. My family vacationed in Washington, D.C., swam in the coastal waters of Virginia Beach and even got to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of Patrick Henry College. The next year we traveled to Point Loma, Calif., for the launch of the now-popular NCFCA homeschool speech and debate league. We camped at Yellowstone, visited Colorado Springs, and — of course! — swam in the warm water near San Diego. Coast to coast in a year. Prayers answered, in style.
I left the teaching profession in ’00 after a district layoff, moved my family to Colorado, and served another professional stint as a Senior Online Editor at Focus on the Family. I learned much about the world of publishing, made several connections in its world and even picked up an MBA. I officially merged my three worlds — teacher, publisher and businessman — when I left full-time employment in 2004 to grow my own curriculum-development business. Monument Publishing was incorporated and remains in service today.
Several other opportunities opened up along the years of this journey, even buying a school bus and converting it into an RV — called a “schoolie” to bus-conversion fans — to keep us traveling the country. Our family ran debate camps in Idaho, Oregon, California, Texas, Florida, Virginia, the Carolinas and, of course, our own state of Colorado. Our kids became the most cultured American kids ever, seeing most of the country and growing their communication skills along the way. Self-employment and homeschooling allowed us tremendous flexibility to gather the kids and head off to whatever tournament I could plug them into — and I typically would bring my books in tow to sell along the way. My “traveling show” was speech-and-debate source material for other homeschool families. As speech and debate grew in popularity, my revenue grew. I applied my editing skills to assemble the best materials for these families to grow their own programs.
I had big plans in the works pre-2014: a major business acquisition, a unique camp tailored to debate graduates, and public speaking tours. They all fell through as a result of my public shaming. As I asked earlier, would you send your kid to a debate camp led by someone accused of abuse? I wouldn’t either, no matter how innocent he might actually be. Our training camps were a major part of my revenue-building plan, and it came to a slothful slow after 2014, never reaching capacity again. Publishing still clunked along, but nothing compared to the roaring years prior to the smear.
An enjoyable aspect of self-employment is my ability to be generous with my time and resources. For years I volunteered at our local homeschool co-op — an assembly of approximately 350 students and their parents — teaching that which I loved and knew best: writing. I was perhaps the most overqualified teacher there, most others being homeschool moms, who, while being creative and intelligent, were not certified, degree-carrying professional teachers. When my social smear hit, I came under the scrutiny of the board and even had some of them sit in to monitor my small classes. I don’t blame them, really. These members knew me and they knew the truth, but they needed to consider the liability I now was. How embarrassing and unfair! Coupled with the fact that I made no money teaching there, I soon found that I could not continue.
I cannot express how difficult it is to let go of 14 years of self-employment, but my bread-winning ability was at its end. Finances were tightening, and Wendy and I needed to find a way to make more money. Though some of our children were adults, living their lives successfully away from us, we still had many more kids at home. Some were in a local charter school, some attended an early-college program, and some were being schooled at home. It was a complicated schedule for a large family, one that Wendy and I had dedicated to God years before, and we were back to hoping for a miracle to make it all work out.
You may have noticed that I have withheld the names of my children from my story. I spent long hours agonizing over whether to use their names or not. Frankly, the tale would have been much easier to tell had I used them. And certainly if I were writing a book of fiction, names would have been at the forefront. But I have no wish to single any of my children out for blame, repercussions or shame. I love each of them dearly, and though their allegations against me are false, I do not want to publicly rebuke them, even by way of a simple rebuttal. Frankly, I am more interested in the day of reconciliation in our personal family matter, and I wholeheartedly believe that day will come. In time.
Reconciliation or not, my focus eventually turned to survival. No matter where a person is on the spectrum of income, social smearing can devastate you. Even the rich and famous — typically accustomed to public shaming, or so we think — feel the financial impact of fabrications against them. Whether you’re rich or poor, you have made a living for yourself, but the money likely stops when you are shamed, certainly so if you are accused of crimes. I didn’t have a “regular” job to keep me afloat, and my residual income dwindled as the social smearing campaign carried on. I catered to a specific audience, and when that audience held back their support for the work I did, I had to readjust my lifestyle and my business. Those who suffer social smearing often have no other choice.
Another inherent problem with being socially smeared: You never really know who knows what. Some people (wisely) shut off social media altogether. Others — many others — don’t, and they search to know every juicy detail of your personal life, all colored by the perspective of your smearer. This reality made it difficult for me to seek supplemental work. I had several assets at my disposal — an MBA with an emphasis on electronic communications, an English bachelor’s degree merely an online application away from a teaching certificate, over a decade of small business development and management — but who’s to say a Google search wouldn’t ruin my opportunities? Jeub is a very rare name, and for several years disparaging blog posts came up on Page 1. Search “Chris Jeub” and tabloid articles “exposing the truth” of my abusive tendencies rose to the top. My squeaky-clean legal record meant nothing, and my strong résumé fell far short when looked at side by side with the online fabrications. This was the new normal for my life.
I pressed on the best I could, pursuing three avenues simultaneously. The first was what I had always done if I felt tight with finances: gin up a new product or service of some sort. This is the flexibility and ability of most experienced and resourceful entrepreneurs — unless you’ve been socially smeared. I launched a few ideas, but they met the same resistance as my current business, so nothing took off. The second was something in line with internet development, with which I had extensive experience and knowledge. I targeted some companies in Colorado Springs that had plenty of openings and great opportunities, but I never received a response for any of the positions. I felt ignored, and I couldn’t help but think that these internet companies were at least savvy enough to do a quick Google search on its candidates. Who would hire an accused abuser? Not internet companies, apparently. I eventually turned to my third avenue: teaching.
Luckily for me, teaching was an increasing need in Colorado. I had let my certificate expire years ago, but the Colorado Department of Education was under pressure to quickly recertify people like me. My curriculum publishing easily served to update my continuing education requirements. So I renewed my teaching certificate and began applying for jobs. In the meantime, I taught as a substitute in several area districts.
I was fingerprinted by the local police as part of the process teachers in Colorado undergo. All districts do a standard background check on every applicant, a requirement by law for all public, charter and private schools. Even the homeschool co-op I previously volunteered for did a background check. I was never convicted or even accused of a crime, as you know. My record was as clean as a whistle. This cleared the runway for me to teach again, and every school is desperate for substitutes. But human resource departments give more scrutiny before hiring a full-time teacher. Again, the thought haunted me: Whomever did the hiring for a given school I applied to would search my name online and then remove me from their small list of applicants without ever explaining why.
I had one thing going for me: my relationship with our local charter school. My children attended, six of nearly 1,000 students in the K-8 school. We were the largest family in the school, and though we were Christian homeschool leaders, we were welcomed in the charter school culture. My children did well in this environment, and the teachers got to know me through my kids, as most teachers do. One of my sons, in fact, won the highest honor of the 1st-grade class: the school’s motto award, which is given to the student voted most exemplary of the behaviors promoted by the “Character First” school. We felt the academy was welcoming of us and, if they happened to know of it, sympathized with us over our online trial.
I had assumed the administration knew of my social smear, as the vice principal got the early story back when my daughter visited the campus uninvited. He, however, had moved positions to the elementary grades. I was interested in the middle school. Teachers started to get to know me as I enthusiastically embraced substitute teaching, on call every morning to pick up whatever lesson the teacher left for me. I subbed for other schools, but my favorite was the one my kids attended. I loved its Core Knowledge sequence, its Character First program, its conservative take on literature and history, and its professional atmosphere. Besides, since my younger children attended, carpooling back and forth from home was extremely convenient.
Remember my encouragement earlier to “walk in the truth”? I could not allow my social smear to prevent me from that which I deserved … and I deserved to fairly and truthfully pursue a teaching job. The socially smeared are greatly tempted to submit to the accusations and fabrications, hold their head in shame while anticipating that — though undeserved or untrue — others will not approve of their reputations. Teachers are governors of children, and though I was never formally accused of a crime and certainly never convicted, the reputations of teachers precede them. If the school followed social media at all, I certainly would not be a candidate for teaching there.
It turns out that the charter school discouraged social media among its administration and teaching staff, as I believe every school should. (You will see why later.) This opened the doors for me to be hired. A long-term substitute position opened up at the end of the school year, and the dean asked me to finish the year off for them. This placed me as a top candidate for the following year. My license was renewed, my credentials were in order, and I finished out the school year teaching an English class. I loved it! I was even able to “strut my stuff” a bit, teaching writing to the kids, getting to connect with some key parents in the school, and earning the respect of the administration and other middle school teachers. Getting hired for the following year was a cakewalk, I figured.
I was wrong, however, to assume that my new administration knew my full story, or to assume they would be on my side. I had made grandiose plans to spend my summer organizing my business affairs in order to begin my first year of English teaching since I left the profession 18 years before. But these plans were brought to an abrupt stop when, in early June, a parent caught wind of my online accusations and — rather than bringing her concerns to the administration — reposted onto the school’s Facebook pages every juicy bit of gossip she could find on Google. Hundreds of families attend the charter school, most of whom did not know us personally, and they were being told that the school “hired an abuser.” I was four years separated from the social blowup of 2014, hoping that it could finally be relegated to the past, but that’s not how social smears work. They say the internet is forever, and it seemed my trial would never end. One parent was all it took to whip up the social smear all over again. She started her own Facebook group she called “Concerned Parents” of the school, and she was determined to find me guilty as charged. I was about to walk through this valley of persecution and misery all over again.
I had a lot more going for me in 2018 than I did in 2014. This administration knew me, the teachers knew my children, and I had proven myself in the classroom. We had several close friends involved in the charter school, which, by the way, is a “charter of parents.” Parents served on the school board and were more involved than your standard public school parent. Some already knew of and sympathized with our predicament with our oldest daughters.
I was called into the office at school for a meeting. I was the fifth person in the room, gathered together with four administrators. They informed me that they’d read what was posted online but wanted my side of the story before taking any formal action. I can only imagine that they were considering firing me, even before I’d really started. I explained everything as best I could, starting all the way back to the 2014 social smear, how this trauma had devastated my family, how we had worked hard for nearly four years to overcome the trial. I doggedly tried my best not to point fingers and keep my presentation as sincere as possible. I pegged the ordeal as a “personal family matter” that was “four years old,” a story of “estranged daughters” who took to social media to smear their parents. By this time only one daughter still remained true to the fabricated online narrative — even the oldest who was still estranged no longer supported her sister — which made things fairly conclusive, 15 voices to one.
Outside our meeting I had several people coming to my defense. One in particular was a student from the previous year. “I learned more about writing than I ever had,” she testified. An active parent of the school, one who had been a close friend of Wendy’s for many years, wrote a letter to the administration and school board, affirming the falsity of the online accusations against me. A former school board member had a son who befriended my son and whose family had had us over to their home more than once; this dad became a phone-calling lobbyist for my defense. Perhaps most helpful was a personal letter from my formerly “predatory” daughter, the one you met in Chapter 5. Now, as you know, she was married and had a son of her own. Here is her appeal to the administration and school board:
To whom it may concern,
I am Chris and Wendy Jeub’s 4th child and was a supporter of my sister’s public blog post outburst 4 years ago that changed a lot of things for all of us Jeubs.
I would like to present a separate perspective to the story that is out for the public to read. At the time I wholeheartedly supported my sister’s story but now with a few years of adulting behind me and a voice of my own that I’ve never let freely speak about it, there’s some serious things worth looking at when those who are directly impacted (my dad, my mom and my siblings) are battling these rumors and upsets with people in their personal lives.
First off, my dad’s record is ‘squeaky clean,’ my family has never had an issue from CPS or the police in any way regarding the care and safety of their children. Some phone calls have been made by people who don’t know my family personally, but no charges and no evidence. Ever.
Secondly… I want to address Media, Publicity, Rumors and Gossip in their relation to the personal lives of a very unique and uncommon family dynamic, such as mine. No one knows my family like those who have lived and live there and those close friends we have had over the years.
Thirdly, I want to write about my 4 years of adult life away from home. I had no idea what “abuse” was or the true ugliness and injustice of what it could look like. I most certainly didn’t understand what it is to survive on my own or to take care of and support a little-one in more ways than changing some diapers and other things I learned growing up with so many little siblings. The story of my childhood is filled with much joy, freedom to be a kid and plenty of love and support in the ways my parents knew how to give it. After learning some different childhood realities I was smacked in the face with the truth of mine: I was free to be me. I was supported financially. I always had a roof over my head and food in my belly (which I didn’t appreciate fully until I had to work for those basics myself). My parents gave me a foundation of good morals I still stick to today. I and my little siblings agree we had room to dream and knew we could believe in ourselves to be great and do great things. What I’ve learned is: very few families get that. Very few ADULTS had that kind of a steady upbringing. My Mom did it all with 15 pregnancies and 16 children to care for. My dad took this responsibility HEAD ON, adopted my two oldest sisters and became a present and providing father for all of us as our family developed. I’ve been a parent 2 short years and I can’t count the mistakes I’ve made. Boy am I grateful for the wisdom and little tidbits of advice my parents have from their experience as parents: Their mistakes, mishaps, personal things that come up and so much more that have shaped the life they have today. That is, in my opinion, evolving to beautiful new experiences for my siblings at home and to me who gets to visit and sleep and eat there whenever.
For those who haven’t experienced a family of as many closely-aged siblings as my family’s household, I have to share some of the beauty I see for our future. My family’s environment at home, I believe, is only going to get more fun, more eventful and more loving as we grow and improve and challenge each other as adults and all have our own kids. I often imagine what it will be like in 15 years or even just 3-5 years with marriages, babies being born and individual careers developing for all the Jeub Teens, Jeub adults/parents, Jeub Grandkids and Jeub in-laws. Also the close friends who have stuck by my parents through thick and thin.
This backlash in my parents’ personal lives (affecting new friends, my dad’s job, distrust from strangers, odd questions from people at my little siblings school they shouldn’t have to be asked OR try to answer) is something that comes along with being in the spotlight, even if the cameras have been gone for years. There’s going to be people who don’t believe in us, who judge, who question, who gossip, who say all sorts of unwarranted hurtful things. If your privacy were the rug under your feet, life in the spotlight just tore it out from under you and broke some bones.
As my relationship with my parents smoothed, I’ve learned it’s important not to suppress issues in the family but it’s also very important to have a place for healing that’s NOT public. A trusting zone to heal, open up, appreciate, be accepting, understanding and supportive of the other family members and who they are.
The Jeub home is a wonderful place to be. Everyone’s always doing something, someone’s always home, somebody’s always making food. It’s a place I can go anytime. A place I will be fed, gifted, clothed (my mom and my three teenage sisters all have clothes that fit! Woohoo!), loved, conversed with, hugged, made to laugh, inspired, asked if I’m okay, asked a million questions (I have to filter which ones to put energy into answering and which ones to just not or I’m way too burnt out, lol) and just so so SO much more. It’s wonderful to have a relationship with my mom and to have her support and advice. My mom is a social butterfly and her friends would agree; a great friend to have! She’s fun and reliable, scheduled and dependable, happy and giving, resourceful and loving.
My dad is one who cooks, cleans, serves and teaches. He’s incredibly Loyal and the responsibilities he takes on in life are from the heart. He’s organized, intelligent, welcoming and giving.
It’s incredible to watch the sons he raised turn into such responsible adults with problem solving skills and a healthy drive to pursue their dreams with passion and class.
My heart could burst when I watch the effect this place has had on my toddler. He turns into the happiest, most energetic, excited, VIBRANT little boy ever and always sleeps and eats well.
I could go on and on. The fact is, my family is truly amazing and I’m so grateful to have them.
Wow! Finally, words from my daughter that expressed the real love in my family. This letter was a cool, fresh cleansing that brought me to tears. And on a practical level, it’s not a bad defense, wouldn’t you say? Like I said, I had so much more going for me than I did in 2014 when the smear first hit the internet. Today the drama seemed like old news, a past personal trial that, if anything, strangers might even sympathize with me instead of holding me in contempt.
At least this is what those of us who are socially smeared hope for. But in a world where “truth doesn’t matter” and you have one (or perhaps a few) social warriors with their cell phones ready to serve up more mounds of mob “justice,” you are never fully absolved. I had a strong defense — friends testifying, school leaders lobbying, former students validating, and even one of my former smearers recanting her story and elaborating on what a great dad I was — but it still amounted to very little in the world of social smearing. No defense was good enough to convince the mob to back off.
The parent who initially raised the concern worked diligently to rally other parents to her side. She attempted to make her group look bigger than it was, but it became obvious that she was drawing in outside sources — people unaffiliated with the school or even our town — and making empty claims that “hundreds” of concerned parents were siding with her. She never once attempted to reach out to the principal, and certainly not to me. She relied entirely on the gossip she gathered and redistributed on the internet, primarily through her new Facebook group. The number of members amounted to no more than 42, and more than half of them dropped off without ever engaging in the forum. In the end, I estimated that only three moms were the agitators.
Litigation was considered. These moms weren’t my children, so I had no problem suing them for libel and public defamation, and likely winning. But these moms were moms of kids in the school where I wanted to teach, and litigation would draw in the press and likely make a public scene the school definitely did not want. As things stood at the time, we were like a family squabbling amongst ourselves, and avoiding litigation was clearly best for the school. Just like litigation would have torn my family apart four years prior, lawsuits had the potential to tear our charter school apart. At the very best, it would make my first year of teaching dead on arrival.
Of course I did not hold these moms in high esteem, but I had come a long way in my personal understanding of social smearers. I may have seen them as personal enemies, taking the word of gossips over the word of a respected teacher. However, they see themselves as whistleblowers, advocates for a better community, “Concerned Parents” of the school their children attend. I had learned how to love my enemies, and perhaps there was a way to untie this newly formed “bond of three not easily broken.” As you know, I had dealt with this impossibility before, and if there was a way to turn one or perhaps two away from their online hatred, this could all be worked out for the good of the school.
One of the “bond of three” mothers happened to be the next-door neighbor of one of my closest advocates. My friend took the initiative to assemble a meeting of three couples at their home: Wendy and me, my friend and his wife, and the husband and “concerned” social-smearing wife. I was going to be the English teacher of their children, and my friend couched the meeting wisely. “We have concerns over Mr. Jeub,” he started. “I know Chris and Wendy to a certain degree, but I am worried over what kind of teacher the school hired, so I assembled the meeting to openly discuss things.” He was more an advocate for me than he let on, but for the sake of persuading the social-smearing parents — particularly the mother — my friend positioned himself as having like-minded concerns.
The meeting was a fantastic three hours of expressing concerns and overcoming doubts. I explained my family’s story much like I had done with my administrators. Wendy was able to add a motherly touch and speak affection into our dilemma. And it turned out that this mother was not concerned so much with the accusation of abuse, but more so that I was a “reality TV star” who held to conservative Christian beliefs. I took time to explain my views, as they were not as “alt-right” as she had been led to believe. This was the first time she got to meet me, her opinion being formed solely by the garbage written about me online. In our meeting we discussed two articles that this mother had her biggest problems with, articles that made it sound like I was a patriarch who didn’t believe girls should be educated. What nonsense! It didn’t take much to reason through the articles from years ago, how context brought meaning to their topics, and it was clearly understood by the end of our get-together that while I may have been a “reality TV star,” I certainly was not the patriarchal cheuvenist she had thought. We left our meeting overturning every stone of concern this mother had. She even hugged Wendy before she left, saying, “I made a new friend tonight.”
This mother returned to Facebook and took down all her hurtful accusations against me, which was good. But I had hoped she would turn out to be a vocal online advocate. This is a reality of the socially smeared. Even when you’ve been vindicated, and even when your adversaries turn to your favor, it is very, very rare for any public apology or retraction to be offered. Wendy’s “new friend” removed her bombastic Facebook posts but still asked for my removal. “The school should not hire someone so controversial,” was her new stand. It was better than being nailed to the wall for fabricated lies about being an abusive dad, but it was not a complete turn, and it was not a total win.
My “win” came June 21, the night of a highly anticipated board meeting. Wendy and I had been traveling from Minneapolis to Dallas on a small business trip we had planned, part of our reordering of our business affairs to prepare for my year of teaching. We knew the board meeting would request the presence of the “bond of three,” but the only one who could attend was Wendy’s “new friend,” once viciously hostile but now much more docile about her views. She reiterated for the public record the same new position she had taken on the Facebook page, that she had reservations for my hire, but her objection did not go very far. She was followed by the satisfied parent of the student who appealed earlier, and her impact was powerfully positive. “Mr. Jeub is controversial to some,” she is on record as saying, “but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was considered controversial, too. Controversy should not be a criteria when hiring.”
The board unanimously decided to keep me on. I didn’t hear the news till we were driving through Illinois. We received an email from the board president, sent to the entire parent list of the charter and later published in our town newspaper, here in partiality:
After a careful review of various social media postings and direct expressions of concern by families, along with the facts and documentation presented by school leadership and reviewed by the school’s legal counsel, the Board agrees with Administration that the issues raised in connection with a recent employment matter fall within three categories:
1) issues not relevant to employment at [the school], including personal matters protected under both federal and state antidiscrimination laws;
2) issues that clearly support the hiring decision and reflect the fact that the hiring decision was not only justifiable, but was exceedingly so; or
3) issues that upon further investigation were found to be false and malicious.
It was so refreshing to read someone finally calling my smear “false and malicious.” We won this fight, and we won it big; the first confident win in four years of social smearing. Wendy and I pulled over on the highway and cried. It was such a tremendous victory to be kept on by the school, and remarkably vindicating for the board to recognize the allegations as “false and malicious.”
I went back to my plan: wrap up my business affairs and enter full-time teaching in August. It was a relatively quiet two months of work, and I was yet again naively hopeful that my social smear would not return. But of course it did. These parents did not go silent into the night. They may have lost the fight on their Facebook page, and they may have lost the fight with the school board, but they were not done with me. They were now taking their fight to one more battle ground, the major newspaper in Colorado Springs, The Gazette.
Teachers returned to school in early August for two weeks of training and preparation before the students arrived. On August 15, still in training with the open house soon to come, I made the front page of the paper: “Monument parents upset with hiring former reality TV star as a teacher.” It became one of the hottest articles of the summer, generating over 400 heated comments and thousands of online shares. Local radio picked up the story and made it a major talking point of the week. Three parents were quoted in the article — the “bond of three” — and all three threatened to protest my classroom during our open house and then sit in my classroom during class hours … to make sure Chris Jeub didn’t “abuse” their kids.
The embarrassment of my social smear had now officially become a tumultuous trial for the school that had hired me. My plan for a smooth return to teaching was about to change.
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