Editorials

Bouquets and Brickbats: Dean Smith’s dismissal is well-justified

Let’s see if we have this straight: Dean Smith, the 55-year-old former superintendent of the San Miguel Joint Union School District, met a seventh-grade girl while he was principal of Templeton Middle School and took a “paternal” interest in her.

Somewhere along the line, though, he began to have “romantic feelings” for her. And now that the girl is 18, Smith is dating her — at least according to Smith’s son.

Smith wouldn’t talk to The Tribune, though he did have plenty to say in court documents.

Apparently, he believes that his decision to date a former student is no one else’s business.

To use his exact words, he believes it “goes beyond legitimate district concerns about employee performance.”

We strongly disagree — and we suspect most parents would, too.

Smith’s behavior may not have been illegal — a sheriff’s investigation found no criminal activity — but it’s a shocking lapse of judgment for a school superintendent to enter into a romantic relationship with a teenager he had at one time been charged with educating and protecting.

Keep in mind, too, that while this was the most egregious charge against Smith, there were several other allegations raised — including charges that he used the district’s computer system to Google nude photos and video clips of an actress and a model.

We’re thankful that the school district had the good sense to send Smith packing — a bouquet for that — though it’s galling that he’ll be on paid leave through June.

We’re raiding our arsenal of brickbats and delivering every last one to Smith — but that still won’t be enough.

Thanks to Morro mayor for service

We toss a huge public service bouquet of beach grass and water lilies to Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters, who is ending a 20-year career in city politics. She will serve out her term as mayor, but has decided not to run for re-election this year.

“It’s time for me to have fun walking on the beach and enjoying Morro Bay instead of worrying about it all the time,” she told us.

Janice’s contributions to the city have been many; we’ve been especially impressed by her ability to balance environmental concerns with the need to develop Morro Bay’s tourism and business sectors.

Fortunately for Morro Bay residents, Janice plans to continue to be involved in community events, including the Winter Bird Festival and Morro Bay Photo Expo. We wish Janice all the best — including many years of long walks on the beach.

Sexting should have consequences

The SLO County District Attorney’s Office recently filed criminal charges against an 18-year-old man who allegedly texted pornographic images to a 14-year-old girl — one of the first local cases of sexting to be brought to public attention.

Much has already been said about sexting — in PSAs, national news stories and TV talk shows — but there’s nothing like an actual case in our own backyard to take this out of the realm of after-school special and convince us that, yes, this is truly happening here.

Authorities in many states are struggling to figure out the best way to deal with these young offenders — through punishment, education, or a combination of both.

Generally speaking, we don’t believe that teenagers who thoughtlessly and stupidly text nude photos of themselves should be treated as hardened sex criminals.

But until the law catches up with modern-day reality, young people should be taught that a careless “sext” can have dire consequences, including time in custody and, for older teens who are no longer minors, a requirement to register as a sex offender.

We’ll text a virtual bouquet to parents who take the time to educate themselves on this issue — and to pass on what they learn to their children.

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