NEPTUNE, N.J. – A New Jersey school district says it has responded in a “swift and serious” way to the case of a vice principal who threw beer on people who were videotaping his wife's extended rant against a transgender woman's use of a public bathroom.
In a message on its website, the Neptune school district says that for legal reasons, it cannot make public the action it took regarding Michael Smurro, vice principal of Neptune Middle School.
He was shown on video tossing a cup of beer when he and his wife realized other patrons were filming them at an outdoor restaurant April 24 in Galloway Township.
In an email to The Associated Press days after the incident, Smurro apologized and said he should have just walked away from the situation. He did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday.
A small protest was held Friday afternoon in a parking lot near the Neptune Board of Education offices, during which the Philly Metro Activism Network said Smurro has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
The group based its claim on an item from the board's April 28 meeting in which an unspecified employee was placed on administrative leave with pay “pending results of an investigation.” The employee's district identification number was listed, but not the employee's name.
Superintendent Tami Crader told The Associated Press on Friday she cannot discuss personnel matters publicly.
“I realize that the public becomes frustrated with what they perceive is a lack of action or a lack of transparency but I am obligated to maintain confidentiality with regard to all personnel matters,” she wrote in an email.
In a statement posted Thursday on the district's website, Crader wrote, “Our response to the well-publicized incident involving a Neptune Board of Education staff member has been swift and serious but cannot be made public. We understand and share the public’s concern and frustration but cannot share more than an assurance that this situation is being addressed, not swept under the rug, and with our students’ social-emotional well-being at the forefront of any of our actions.”
The organization that held Friday’s protest called the district’s refusal to reveal its action regarding Smurro “careless and unacceptable.”
Video recorded by a patron at a table nearby shows the Smurros at an outdoor dining area. The footage shows Lisa Smurro complaining at length about a person she said is a transgender woman using the women’s bathroom.
Footage shows that the couple became aware that someone was videotaping them. They get up and walk near the table where the person filming was, and Lisa Smurro continues to complain about the transgender woman’s using the restroom. A woman at the table replies, “Please take your hate elsewhere.”
Michael Smurro then walks up and tosses the contents of a cup of beer at occupants of the table.
“Here you go, pal,” he says on the video. “There you go.”
Michael Smurro then takes several steps back and, gesturing toward himself, says, “Now you can come out. I’m right here,” before the couple walks away.
Police were not called, and as of last week, no charges had been filed regarding the incident. Police did not respond to an inquiry Friday.
New Jersey law prohibits discrimination based on gender identify. It permits people to use public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
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