Resolution of the criminal investigation into some Shelton High School staff members — highlighted by Principal Beth Smith’s placement on paid administrative leave — will not come until next week.
Shelton Police Chief Shawn Sequeira told the Shelton Herald Thursday that there is no timetable on the investigation — which is focusing on whether school staff properly followed protocols and procedures, in accordance with Connecticut state law, in handling a potentially criminal incident involving two students on Tuesday, March 26 — but felt a decision could come sometime next week.
Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti has stated law enforcement observed what were believed to be irregularities in the school’s handling of the situation involving the two students. And school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, in response to the criminal investigation, placed Smith on paid administrative leave on March 28 but gave no specific reason for the decision, saying only that this was a “personnel matter.”
In the days following the start of the criminal investigation — which encompasses not only Smith but also other school staffers, including acting Principal John Skerritt, according to published reports — rumors have swirled about the reasons behind the investigation and Smith’s present status. It reached a fever pitch after inaccurate reporting that inferred that there had been an arrest and a school employee had been escorted off the campus.
That immediately led Clouet to say he was “concerned and extremely disappointed in the false reporting” on this matter by various media outlets. He also posted a statement on the school district’s website saying "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."”
“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.”
But Clouet as well as Board of Education members and even the Shelton teachers’ union head, Deborah Keller, have refused comment, citing the present law enforcement investigation as well as potential pending investigations by school officials. State Department of Children & Families’ officials also refused to confirm or deny any report was made concerning Shelton High School.
“I met with dozens of students, and they were understandably concerned with everything going on,” said Clouet. “What I took away from our meetings is a unity as a community to maintain the quality of service that everyone has come to expect from Shelton High School.”
Clouet — who emphasized that no high school programming will be affected by the present situation — 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.
"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 move forward.”
Visit sheltonherald.com daily for updates on this article.
brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com