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A New Jersey middle school vice principal has apologized for throwing beer at a restaurant after his wife ranted about a transgender woman using the women’s restroom.
Michael Smurro, vice principal at Neptune Middle School in Monmouth County, N.J., was filmed launching his beer over patrons — including a table with a child — at Fred & Ethel’s Lantern Light Restaurant and Tavern in New Jersey.
The incident occurred after his wife, Lisa, engaged in a transphobic rant that led other diners to intervene and ask them to leave.
In video of the incident, captured by another diner, Lisa Smurro can be seen loudly complaining about a transgender woman who used the women’s restroom.
“It’s not okay,” she says repeatedly to another diner. “She’s a man using my bathroom.”
Other diners call her out for her rant, branding it “inappropriate” and noting that Smurro was cursing within earshot of a table with a young child.
The Smurros eventually get up to leave as nearby diners discuss Lisa Smurro’s transphobia and question whether she should continue to be served alcohol (both Smurros are holding beers when they get up to leave).
They spot that Carrie, the woman who posted the videos, is filming them, which leads Lisa Smurro to yell, “Hi! It’s not right! A man just went in the woman’s bathroom and that’s not right.”
In a third video, diners call Smurro “clearly drunk” as she approaches Carrie’s table and resumes her rant at a nearby waitress.
“There was a man pissing in the bathroom, in the women’s bathroom,” she loudly states.
The waitress notes that there’s a child within earshot, but Smurro is undeterred.
“She’s a man. She’s a man!” she continues, as the waitress asks whether she should fetch the restaurant manager. “She was in the women’s bathroom. She’s a man.”
Carrie, the woman who filmed the incident, tells Smurro she’s being inappropriate and urges her to “take your hate elsewhere.”
Smurro continues complaining about the woman “pissing in the bathroom,” at which point the waitress leaves and gets the manager.
Michael Smurro, who has remained silent up to this point, then approaches the table next to Carrie and throws his beer, saying, “There you go pal.” He then tells the diners, “Now you can come out!” repeatedly while backing away.
The other diners yell at the couple to leave and question whether to call police as the video ends.
Carrie, who didn’t want to have her full name included for her own safety, told BreakingAC that some of the beer hit her boyfriend, but most landed on the table where the child was seated.
After Michael Smurro was identified as a middle school vice principal, Carrie said he shouldn’t be around children.
“He assaulted a table with a child at it,” she said. “He should not be working with children. His wife should especially be far, far, far away from children.”
Lisa Smurro told NJ Advance that her husband became upset after people filmed their private conversation, before saying that transgender people should be forced to use separate bathrooms.
“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,” she said. “Our daughter’s not young anymore, but if she was young and I brought her in there, that would have made me very uncomfortable.”
She then claimed that Michael Smurro asked diners to stop recording them and only retaliated after she became upset.
“They were just mocking us and smiling and sneering. We absolutely assaulted no one,” she said. “We touched no one, we spoke to no one. [Smurro can be seen arguing with another diner when the first video begins.] We weren’t bothering anyone. We were minding our own business, having our own conversation.”
Tony Coppola, owner of Fred and Ethel’s, told BreakingAC it was an “unfortunate, ugly incident.”
He also rejected Lisa Smurro’s claim that he told her the restaurant had separate facilities for transgender diners (New Jersey law requires that transgender people be able to use facilities that match their gender identity). Coppola said the restaurant has separate facilities for families and for privacy, but not designated transgender restrooms.
“Everyone’s welcome in our restaurant,” he said. “Hate’s got no place in our society. There’s too much hate right now.”
The transgender woman who was the subject of Smurro’s ire has not been identified.
Police Chief Donna Higbee confirmed that the incident was something they would have investigated, but no diners at the restaurant called to complain about the Smurros.
After news broke of the incident, Michael Smurro issued a statement saying he “allowed my emotions to get in the way of my normally sound judgment and reacted in a way that was inappropriate.”
“I do not condone violence or discrimination of any kind and should have simply walked away,” he said. “I apologize to the person I threw my beer at and wish I hadn’t done so. I apologize to anyone I offended.”
Neptune Township School District is now investigating the incident and issued a statement saying contents of the videos do “not reflect our district’s commitment to inclusivity.”
“This event is troubling as its perception potentially threatens the social-emotional well-being and climate of belonging that our Neptune School District community represents,” the statement continued. “Although we cannot comment on the details of confidential matters, we can say the Board of Education and the Administration are taking this matter seriously.
“In our district, we celebrate our diversity and the uniqueness of all our school community members. The actions shown in the video do not reflect our district’s commitment to inclusivity, cooperation, respect and non-violence.”
Christian Fuscarino, executive director of New Jersey LGBTQ rights organization Garden State Equality, told ABC 10 that the Smurros actions were “absolutely transphobia.”
“The law against discrimination in New Jersey protects those with gender identity to use the restroom with the gender they identify,” Fuscarino said.
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