A vice principal at a Monmouth County school is under investigation after a social media post shows him angrily throwing a cup of beer at restaurant patrons in Atlantic County this past weekend.
The drink toss by Michael Smurro occurred after his wife argued with patrons over an apparent transgender woman using the women’s bathroom with her at the restaurant, Fred & Ethel’s Lantern Light and Tavern in Smithville, Galloway Township on Saturday. The incident was first reported by BreakingAC.com.
Smurro is a vice principal at Neptune Middle School, in Neptune Township. The district’s superintendent, Tami Crader, said Monday morning she’d just learned of the incident and it is under investigation, “and will be taken seriously.”
Crader declined to say if any action had been taken against Smurro. She said the board of education and the school administration will not condone any kind of violent behavior or discriminatory behavior.
A witness to the confrontation who recorded parts of it said the woman, Lisa Smurro, made repeated insensitive and transphobic remarks, and that Smurro made them loudly within earshot of three outdoor dining tables at the restaurant – including a party of five with a young child.
“It was just disgusting,” said the witness, Carrie, who goes by Peach CC on Facebook. She asked that her last name be omitted for fear of retaliation.
Carrie said Smurro kept complaining about a transgender woman using the bathroom while she was also in the facility, and would not let it go, repeating, “She’s a man!”
“A man just went in the women’s bathroom and it’s just not right,” Lisa Smurro says in one of three videos Carrie posted.
According to New Jersey law, people cannot be discriminated against based on gender identity. Under the law, people are permitted to use restrooms in public places that correspond to their gender identity. In recent years, the state has passed laws aimed at further protecting transgender rights, including a 2017 bill that created additional layers of protection at New Jersey public schools. In 2018, the state created a Transgender Equality Task Force.
Lisa Smurro told NJ Advance the matter was a private conversation with her husband after seeing someone she believed was transgender using a women’s restroom. “My whole thing is, that restaurant provided a bathroom for transgenders, and that’s where they should have gone. I just felt a little uncomfortable. Our daughter’s not young anymore, but if she was young and I brought her in there, that would have made me very uncomfortable.”
Lisa Smurro couldn’t understand why anyone was recording their conversation. Her husband asked them to stop video recording, and he grew frustrated because his wife was clearly upset, she said.
“They were just mocking us and smiling and sneering. We absolutely assaulted no one. We touched no one, we spoke to no one. We weren’t bothering anyone. We were minding our own business, having our own conversation.”
The videos Carrie posted show the incident grew into a confrontation.
Michael Smurro says little during most of the incident, Carrie said, and the videos show that the couple eventually left their table. Outside the restaurant, Lisa Smurro again would not let it go and approached Carrie’s table and argued with her and her boyfriend, and then a waitress.
“She’s a man not a woman,” Lisa Smurro said. “She’s a man, How are you OK with this?” Lisa Smurro says to Carrie.
A waitress then asks Smurro to leave, and goes to get a manager. Michael Smurro was further away, the videos show.
Then, Michael Smurro walked back to the tables and tosses the open cup of beer, which sprayed on Carrie, her boyfriend and the table with the child, Carrie said.
“We did nothing wrong, other than he did spill, throw a little bit of a beer. Yes, he got upset when he asked the guy to please stop videotaping me,” Lisa Smurro said.
Carrie said she never saw the woman Lisa Smurro was complaining about.
On their way home, Lisa Smurro said she contacted the restaurant and someone there apologized about the restroom situation, she said. “When the restaurant told me they had an appropriate bathroom, that’s when I really was very upset,” she said.
The restaurant did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Lisa Smurro doesn’t understand why the incident has attracted so much attention. “This is my business. We were out for a nice Saturday afternoon and we don’t appreciate being videotaped.”
She declined to comment over whether this was creating any issues for her husband at work.
Police were not contacted at the time of the incident and have not heard from any victims reporting the fracas, said Galloway Township Police Lt. Chris McGinty. They have been in contact with the restaurant’s owners in the meantime.
Police also do not know the identity of the transgender person referenced in the rant. “We have not been contacted by that person,” McGinty said. “We have no idea who that person may be, as well as the person that got the drink thrown in their face. We have not been contacted by them to report an incident to us.”
McGinty encouraged anyone who wants to report an incident to step forward.
“If anybody has information or a victim wants to come forward and report something to us, we would certainly take the report and do an investigation,” he said. They can contact police at 609-652-3705 and press 1 for dispatch.
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