Keep up with all the chapters at the book page of Facing Hate: Overcoming Social Smearing, Recovering Relationships, and Rebuilding Your Reputation.
I would not have blamed any administration to drop me like a hot potato. I was a social media storm brewing among the parents of my charter school, and there was little to win in keeping me on as a teacher. School administrations are no different than most organizations, and boards act in accordance with what is best for the school. When someone proves to be an embarrassment to the greater organization, the managers work with HR to figure out a way to get rid of the problem. It doesn’t always matter what the truth is, nor what the bosses personally believe. Who hasn’t seen these situations work this way? Fair or unfair, for better or worse, political issues like me get moved out, for the greater good, one supposes.
Charter schools are different, though, and my administrators were incredible professionals. More than once the directors affirmed their commitment to the truth, to doing the right thing, to stand by one of their teachers who was getting unfairly slammed online. I’m sure they had their moments of doubt, but they had a fighting spirit about them that made them charter school advocates in the first place. As I’ve already shared, I was a homeschool advocate who bucked the system over the years, and these charter school leaders were also accustomed to fighting the system. Like homeschoolers, they raged against the machine of the behemoth public education system. They were freedom-seeking educators who fought hard to take back what the state didn’t deserve: the right of parents to educate their own children. I loved (and still love) being a part of their family of parents and educators.
That is the atmosphere of the charter school. But not all participating parents are always of the same mind. In this case, three in particular were hell-bent on forcing the school’s hand to remove me from teaching. These were the same three who smeared my name all over again on the Facebook walls of the school, attempting diligently to rally a mob against my hiring. The truth didn’t seem to matter to these parents, and they used social smearing as their weapon to tear up the town. They didn’t just come after me, they came after anyone who attempted to seek the truth of the matter, very much like the bad ol’ days of 2014 when the initial smear ravaged my life. Anyone appearing to support me or the administration was harassed even more.
One of the three reposted a tabloid article written about my family in 2014, along with this comment: “Mr. Jeub reportedly has been hired to teach English in the fall. Where is the common sense and judgment??? This man WILL NOT teach my daughter and I seriously question the character of those who would believe this man belongs in the classroom teaching children. Please speak out, email, scream from the rooftops NO!”
This post was out there for all the school’s parents to read. I had learned much over the previous four years, knowing well enough not to engage. The truth did not matter, remember, so any explanation would fall short. Another mom, someone we did not know, challenged the comment: “This is not the way to air this out, you should go directly to the school and express your concerns. You should get the facts first before ruining [the teacher’s] chances. This article was written in 2014, and it’s a gossip magazine.”
Within minutes, another mom — one of the three who led this smearing campaign — continued the thread: “This man has already been hired by the school. He is on record as being a Fundamental Christian…if you aren’t aware of the facts surrounding what they teach…please research.” Another of the three added, “There is an underlying intolerance towards kids who don’t have faith. I’ve seen it and my kids who actually do have faith, but not the right kind, have experienced it in the form of comments, and attitude. It’s very insidious.”
Do you see how wound up this was becoming? Social smearing works that way. These parents surely saw themselves as whistleblowers, exposing that which the powers-at-hand were “covering up.” But the administration and board weren’t covering anything up! Every little detail of my life had been exposed for the world to see. But social smearers do not hold the truth as a counterweight. Any attempt to speak reason into the social media windstorm quickly turns on you. If you try — and I am grateful many people did try — you became the defendant somehow justifying the installment of a “convicted abuser” in a school classroom.
As you know, the school didn’t budge. This was the biggest victory of my four years of being socially smeared. I finally had a governing body rationally analyzing the data, formulating a truthful verdict, and then sticking with the right side of the issue. They were fully convinced that I was unjustly accused, even calling out my smears as “false and malicious,” and they held firm with their decision. I was going to be an English teacher for the school, and I deserved it!
And then yet another shoe dropped: front-page coverage in the Colorado Springs Gazette. How many feet did this monster have?
Our academy had inservice meetings for two weeks leading up to the first day of school, which included an open house for parents to come meet the teachers. I had become the gossip of the school, no doubt interesting gab-fodder for many. I wanted none of it. Neither did my bosses, and they did all they could to make sure I was protected from the social mob infiltrating the school. The three “concerned parents” posted messages about how they wanted to sit in my classroom when school started, or perhaps have their children be excused entirely from my English class, but none of these requests ever materialized. Our charter school was a “school of choice,” so these parents always had a way out by pulling their kids and going elsewhere. They didn’t. And neither did any other parent of the nearly 1,000 enrolled students.
This should settle nicely for those of you who are socially smeared. The dragons are made of paper, roaring a scary roar but not nearly as impactful as you think. The social media hate that gets posted about you is, at first, shocking to your core. You tend to think everyone is in agreement with the mob. But even the leaders of the mob are weak, not nearly as strong as they appear online. The proof for me was how many outraged parents actually yanked their kids from the charter school. Would you send your kid to a classroom commanded by a felony-level abuser? Turns out not one parent of my 120 middle school students thought such things were actually true, taking action by removing their own kids from the danger such a situation would indicate. Not even the “bond of three” moms withdrew their children.
Another word of truth from someone who has been dragged through social smearing hell: Your adversaries are probably not upset with what they say they are upset with. Remember when I was talking about how I had to learn the fine art of “leaning in”? There were underlying problems with my family that had nothing to do with abuse or neglect. If I had only focused on these false accusations, I likely would have lost all hope, especially when it came to reconciling with my daughters. The same was true with the three parents upset about my teaching their kids. They used the accusation of abuse against me, but that wasn’t their real beef with me, and I don’t even think they believed it. They were upset with me for other things, as you will soon see, and smearing me was their way to seek “justice” for it.
I was still trying to wrap my head around these truths when one of the administrators stopped me in the hallway after work. “The Gazette called me asking about some parents,” he said. “There may be an article coming.” My heart sank. The director shared with me what he told the reporter — pretty much the same things we had dealt with earlier that summer — and said that the reporter may be contacting me for a follow-up.
She did, via email:
Hi. I write for The Gazette, the daily newspaper in Colorado Springs. I’m doing a story about some parents upset about your hiring. Do you want to give a few comments? They primarily seem concerned about these two aspects: That your Christian faith might creep into your teaching, and that your previous blog posts on views about girls not needing to be as educated as boys will influence how you treat girls. As you know, they’ve said you are too controversial a figure to have at their school. Do you want to respond? I’m turning the story in later today.
Notice what is missing: abuse. You would think this would be the number-one issue with my teaching, but the reporter was instead getting an earful from “concerned parents” who didn’t think this issue was as important as my Christian faith. And these parents never did seek a deeper understanding of me or my writings, as they would have then learned that I was an advocate for equal education no matter what the gender. These straw-man arguments were easy to deflate. The reporter left her phone number, but I did not call her. These pointed questions allowed me to zero in on brief, concise answers that, I hoped, the reporter would appreciate.
Thank you for inquiring. Here are my answers to your questions.
That your Christian faith might creep into your teaching:
I have worked alongside countless Christians in my years of teaching, including here at the school. We are a charter school, not a Christian school, and I am fully aware how to teach in this environment.
… and that your previous blog posts on views about girls not needing to be as educated as boys will influence how you treat girls.
I have never advocated for an unequal education of boys and girls. Several years ago I blogged against a pastor who believed such nonsense. I have been quoted out of context for advocating for that which I have publicly stood against.
I spent time wordsmithing this response. I was purposefully succinct. If I were long-winded, the reporter could have selected parts of my response to reprint, and I didn’t want that to happen. I was being strategic here, just as I had been with my daughters years earlier. My purpose was not to plead my case in its entirety, rehash every detail of my online smearing drama. It was to counter the media onslaught that was likely coming my way. The debate coach in me was on high alert.
She followed up with a question about the alleged abuse, as if it were merely a loose end:
Last thing: What’s your response to your daughter’s allegations of abuse?
If I had been on high alert before, I was on DEFCON 4 now. In my estimation, this was the crux of the matter about my position at the charter school. If I was a Christian who was taken out of context for an article I wrote years ago, the school — especially this charter school — would wholeheartedly defend me. But if the courtroom of public opinion believed me to be an abuser, the school could buckle under the pressure. Where this would lead was anyone’s guess. Facebook group whistleblowing was one thing, but now real media had picked up the story and was about to sound the alarm. Perhaps then parents would actually take the step of pulling their kids from the school. My response needed to put an end to the nonsense of my social smear, making it clear that I am as far from an abuser as the best of parents. Thankfully, this was not spin. This was the truth.
The allegations were made four years ago and have proven to be false. I haven’t made public rebuttals because, frankly, I am more interested in reconciliation with my daughter. This is a personal family matter that has been difficult on all of us.
The reporter ended up quoting me word for word, which is exactly what I hoped she would do. I cannot say for sure, but I imagine my three-mom adversary did not practice such brevity. Their major problem was with my Christian faith, and that did not hold water. Lots of teachers are Christians. So what? When the article dropped, all of us braced for the worst, but it ended up making the school administrators look like the freedom fighters that they were. For once I looked like the victim, targeted by a small group of disgruntled, Christian-hating parents who were harassing a popular and highly qualified English teacher.
A colleague of mine came over to congratulate me: “You are totally, 100% vindicated of all this smear.” The administrator who connected me with the newspaper shared with me his opinion: “They gave it their best shot; they lost, we won, now let’s get to work.” The school was contacted by strangers encouraging them to “stick by the Christian teacher.” A local radio show host spent all morning talking about “that English teacher” who was “getting beat up for his Christian faith,” and phone call after phone call came in from supporters who found it appalling that a teacher was so cruelly attacked in the media. “These parents should be ashamed of themselves,” one caller said. “He’s one of their kids’ teachers, and they’re all bent out of shape about his Christian views.”
And once again, notice what was missing: abuse. In the social smearing world, this had become an afterthought. The felony I committed was believing in Christ, not attacking my own children. Contrary to what nihilistic factions want to turn our country into, we are still a United States of America that values freedom of religion. And so it seemed that the accusation of “abuse” was indeed a straw man, easily knocked down. Once the true nature of the grievance was revealed, no one jumped onboard the “fire Jeub” bandwagon. And, again, no one took their kids out of school.
Do you think the smearers stopped their hate? You’ve come this far in my story, so you know the answer: Of course they didn’t. During the open house, my administrators had to resort to guarding my door like security at a punk-band concert. As professionals they counted themselves as representatives of all the parents of the school, not just the few who tried to rally people to join them in their harassment. And that meant holding the worst offenders at bay. The social media posts continued, at least at the beginning of the year. Yet I quickly became a negative-news footnote.
I was a first-year teacher who should have focused his undivided attention on lesson work. I had curricula to consider, classroom procedures to set up, parents to email and call, and so much more. I had over 100 students who needed my attentiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and want nothing more than the best for all my students, but I had a social media storm rumbling over me, bumping and bruising me every time I considered my next teaching move.
So I taught straight as an arrow, seldom veering off the curricular path of the charter school. We had a clear sequence to follow, and any mention of God or even faith in general was delicately handled to avoid any accusation of “sharing my faith.” In all honesty, I taught closely to how I would have taught without the smear in my life; I do not aspire to wholesale evangelism, and I would never proselytize students in the classroom. But even so, I was on pins and needles all year making sure the appearance wasn’t even close. I had many meetings with my administrators on how to handle spiritual undertones in the curriculum’s poetry and literature units, and whether to pursue deeper human themes that involve spirituality. These would have been healthy discussions in class, largely secular in nature but genuinely enlightening, but I was counseled to steer clear.
This is collateral damage to communities that suffer from social smearing. Most families at my school would have gladly welcomed deeper discussions in class, but our school was under attack from social warriors who would pounce on any approach that seemed to lean “right.” The school also did not proceed with the debate program I had planned to lead. The administrators and I were fully focused on getting through the year. I would have loved to show my students the 2007 TLC show about my family, and I could have easily woven it into a healthy writing lesson. No way! I walked well within the boundaries, taught straight from the book, and ultimately my students had an “OK” teacher for the year. I could have been a far better, more enjoyable teacher had I the liberty to be so.
Instead, I had these few parents at my door demanding my removal. There were times my administration, I’m sure, felt more pressure than they admitted. A doubting voice inside my head often asked, “Are they ready to cave yet?” The gossip swirled online at precisely the same pace as my mind whirled. “Are they preparing to let me go?” was my fear. I recall one moment where I sent an email to my administrators expressing my appreciation for their support, and it was met with not a single reply. The silence was deafening, and the voice inside kept suggesting that ultimate defeat was around the corner.
Thankfully, my administration had my back, and my fears were one by one quenched by their sturdy support. They never let me down or wavered, repeatedly supporting me and resisting the pressure that came their way. This is rare in the world of social smearing, unfortunately. The powers-that-be often waver and weaken, obsessed with the associated damage that comes — no matter how unfair or untrue — on the heels of someone’s tarnished reputation. Adults sometimes act like schoolchildren, alienating the one who is bullied or teased from fear of what others may think of them. Cliques exist among adults, too, and those of us smeared online often find ourselves sitting alone, unsupported, and outcast.
There were staff and prominent parents who — though they were not the social smearing agitators — did not welcome the negative press that had come with my hiring. One such person was a mother on the Parent Teacher Organization, whose views were exposed in a gossipy situation that involved a close friend of Wendy’s. It created quite a stir, with some suspecting that there was some sort of “mole” among us. It led to an unfortunate breaking of a friendship that Wendy once held dear. Other, isolated flareups were handled professionally behind closed doors, but they were always emotionally draining and drew all of us away from our work. There was, for a few, a certain level of distrust in me and even the administration who supported me, and I couldn’t help but feel like these were collegial betrayals.
But I had a unique advantage: One of my sons was one of my students. He was, in fact, close friends with the daughters of the “bond of three.” I had feared that the children of my online smearing parents would videotape me or trick me into publicly indulging my faith or pester me into making some other error in judgment. Instead, they carried on as if nothing had happened, with no “gotcha” campaign ever surfacing. This was a pleasant surprise to my son and me, one that helped both of us get through a successful year — despite the online gossip that rolled on among the parents.
Ultimately, there were many players in this game that got us through the school-wide social smear — the administrators’ professional insistence, the school board’s denial of maliciousness, supportive parents far outnumbering the few who sought my demise. But I must credit these students for getting me through the school year. They were mature beyond their age, some refusing to follow in their parents’ maligning footsteps. The social whirlwinds of emotionally wired middle schoolers have scant rhyme or reason, and maturity — especially the cognitive ability to reject conventional opinion, even from their own parents — is a rare commodity. My students could have so easily turned into savage little beasts determined to undermine my classroom, but they instead became some of my favorite people, not merely pupils.
An argument can be made that the school had a legal obligation to keep me on for at least the year they originally hired me for. They had no obligation to renew my contract, however. So when this administration, which diligently sought the truth, stood by its teachers and professionally strove to make the best school they could possibly make, offered me a second year’s contract, I gladly and gratefully renewed. There was one more exciting thing that happened at the end of that first year at the charter school: my son, the one I mentioned was in my English class, was nominated for the grade’s motto award. I recused myself from the voting, of course. And it was a major button-popping moment when he won! The other teachers later shared that his friendship with the children of the “bond of three” moms influenced them to grant him the award. He could have been a vigilante, looking to get revenge for how other families’ parents treated his dad, but he chose the higher road of kindness and friendship. I’m so very proud of him, and proud of my colleagues who not only saw the truth but also embraced it.
All seemed to be ending well. I began entertaining the idea that perhaps my social smear was, in fact, going away. Not so fast, Jeub! Remember, in today’s social media world, smears never go away. Hoping for such blissful release is a false hope; eventually, the dragon reappears and shakes its papier-mâché again. Sure enough, in March of 2019 — that time of year when the students and teaching staff start feeling the sunny mood of summer approaching — my daughter came out with another phase of media bashing her family and her parents, this time with the support of a prominent website that carried more national appeal than our local Gazette. Her article’s title was pure, libelous click-bait: “My Family Was On A TLC Reality Show. Here’s The Dark Secret That Never Aired.” It was as if time had been frozen in 2014. Would this ever go away?
No, social smears don’t go away. But you have every right to overcome them.
This wasn’t an all-consuming and destructive personal trial for me any longer. Time hadn’t stood still since the original social smear, not for me, anyway. I’m back to writing and developing my debate materials business, this time with an online membership that makes it easier to run alongside my teaching. In fact, the two complement each other, with each informing and feeding the other. Wendy is talking about doing some writing of her own, perhaps finishing her third cookbook, a delicious tome she started before our smearing drama began. Half of my children are now grown, making their individual marks on the world, leaving Wendy and I “only” six minor children. Of those who have flown the nest, several own businesses, one is a videographer, another a poet who aspires to be a lawyer. They each have their own reputations to be concerned about. Weddings are popping up all around us. And I’m looking forward to when the next Jeub kid announces another grandchild in the wings. Our count — so far — is at eleven grandchildren.
Our family came together the Sunday after my daughter’s article — spouses, fiancés, grandchildren included — and we discussed the frustration of the smear that seemed to never die. At the time we were nearly five years into this sad family drama, and we all knew that even if the offending daughter refused future calls from the media, someone, somewhere, would find old posts and whip up new chaos for us. It is now a never-ending reality of the Jeub family, a reality that none of us enjoy and no one wants. It is most frustrating to have your identity be hijacked at the whim of one girl. One daughter whom we all love so much more than she knows right now.
Together we resolved to create this book. My administration wished me well as I dedicated my summer — my first “summer off” as a teacher — to writing it. I set up a small Patreon campaign to include others who had experienced the pain of social smearing, and they walked with me as I told my story in raw, unedited fashion. My children helped me pull the story together, too, reading the bits and pieces to them that were so much a part of their lives, tragic as it was, but freeing, too.
And just as they helped me tell this tale, my family is helping me bring it to an end. We’ve been through quite a journey together through this dark and desolate land of social smearing, and I am very proud of how we have all landed. Today we are rebuilding our lives and reputations; restoring our love for each other and for life itself. But ending the book here would be incomplete without pulling back the curtain of my life just a little bit more; revealing a truth that, frankly, I’m not so proud of. And after that, stay with me for just a little while longer as my story of suffering turns into a story of solution, a most necessary final resolution to my family’s epic journey.
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