Clouet: SHS investigation will not impact activities, programs
The police investigation engulfing Shelton High School — which led to Principal Beth Smith’s forced administrative leave last week — will not impact school activities, according the city’s top educator
Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet told the Herald that he has spent the past two days reassuring staff, students and parents that all anticipated activities at the high school will continue as planned.
“I met with dozens of students, and they were understandably concerned with everything going on,” said Clouet. “What I took away from our meetings, with students, parents and staff, is a unity as a school community ... to work together to maintain the quality of service that everyone has come to expect from Shelton High School.”
Clouet said meeting with the school community was imperative as reports surfaced that the state’s attorney office and Shelton Police Department are conducting a “criminal investigation involving multiple staff members” at Shelton High School.
Mayor Mark Lauretti told the Herald Monday — and police Chief Shawn Sequeira confirmed later that day — that the investigation is focusing on more than just Smith’s actions in connection with an incident with two school students early last week. Lauretti said several school staff — including, according to a published report in The Hartford Courant (https://www.courant.com/breaking-news/hc-br-shelton-principal-on-leave-20190401-mfzi33quijbopasgbcqrldmljq-story.html), the acting high school principal, John Skerritt — are part of the investigation.
Sequeira confirmed to the Herald Monday that his department is investigating whether school personnel are following the proper protocols and procedures, in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes, when dealing with potentially criminal situations.
Sequeira would not comment on what specifically led to this investigation, saying only that the department was called to the high school on an incident involving students.
“While working on the alleged case concerning the students, this separate case came up,” said the chief.
Smith was placed on paid leave March 28 on what Clouet termed a “personnel matter.”
"I think it is in everyone’s best interest to not add unnecessary commentary to this situation,” said Clouet. “I have spoken with staff. I have communicated with students and with parents. That’s where the focus should be right now.”
But Lauretti criticized Clouet’s actions in this process.
“By putting Beth Smith on administrative leave, (Clouet) may have called attention to a situation when it may have been premature,” said Lauretti. “What if nothing comes down from this, then what? Why not reassign her until everything is done. All kinds of mistakes have been made here.”
“I think these kinds of comments are exactly what we do not need right now,” responded Clouet. “People should be more circumspect. We need to respect each other and respect the process. Once the investigation is completed, and I all the information in hand, I will make statement about how we kove forward.”
Clouet has confirmed that multiple agencies, including law enforcement, performing an investigation into Smith but would not elaborate, saying only that it involved an incident which occurred early last week. State Department of Children & Families’ Gary Kleeblatt told the Herald, under state law, he was unable to confirm or deny any report was made concerning Shelton High School.
Sequeira would not comment on if any arrests were pending, saying “we would like to wrap this up as soon as possible, but I can give no time line. That’s when things can slip through the cracks. I prefer to be as efficient, accurate, clear and concise as possible. We do not limit our investigation to one individual because you never know where the investigation will lead.”
Lauretti said this investigation stems from an incident involving two students at the high school earlier last week. Lauretti could not comment on the incident involving the students, saying that investigation remains ongoing. But the mayor did say that police are attempting to determine if Smith and fellow staff members properly followed protocols and procedures during the incident with the two students.
“The situation centered around a complaint concerning two students,” said Lauretti, “and during that, the state’s attorney got involved with respect to how these complaints are being handled by school staff members.”
“I have not been made aware of that,” said Clouet when asked about Lauretti’s comment about multiple high school staffers being investigated.
Clouet told the Herald that he informed Smith of the decision in his conference room at the Board of Education administrative office building Thursday, March 28. Smith was neither arrested nor escorted from the high school by law enforcement, according to Clouet.
“It is true that (Smith) is on paid administrative leave until further notice, but the circumstances of that decision are a personnel matter, and I cannot comment further,” said Clouet.
“Why just Beth Smith? I don’t know why she was put on paid leave. What about the others being investigated? I know the state’s attorney’s office is concerned with how protocols are being followed and regulations being adhered to,” Lauretti added.
Clouet did say he was “concerned and extremely disappointed in the false reporting” on this matter by various media outlets. According to a report on the WTNH website, Shelton police confirmed that officers were at Shelton High School on Friday as part of an ongoing investigation involving a school employee.
Sequeira also confirmed that reports of an arrest of school personnel or any school personnel being escorted from the high school, in relation to this investigation, were inaccurate.
In a statement released on the school's website at 8 p.m. Friday, Clouet stated "Please beware of rumors. (Smith) was not escorted from the building by police. There has been no arrest. Our primary concern is the well being of our students. In addition, Dr. Smith deserves respect and privacy as this process unfolds."
“I made this decision to place her on paid administrative leave for her benefit and the benefit of the school district until this is resolved,” said Clouet.
Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden said Friday that Clouet informed board members midday Thursday about the move.
Assistant Principal John Skerritt is acting principal while an investigation begins into Smith, who has been principal at the high school for some 10 years.
Holden said the board has not received any details on the issues surrounding Clouet's decision on Smith.
“There will be a thorough investigation,” said Holden, “and if the Board of Education needs to action, we will do so.”
Holden also disputed reports of Smith, a longtime member of the Shelton school system, being arrested, saying that he has heard nothing of an arrest or anyone being escorted from the high school by law enforcement.
“(Clouet) met with her yesterday (Thursday, March 28), and he was the one who made the decision that she should be placed on administrative leave, with pay,” said Holden.
In the meantime, Holden said he has “tremendous confidence in (Skerritt’s) ability to cover what needs to be covered” during this process.
Visit sheltonherald.com daily for updates on this article.