Montville needs people like Orbe helping its kids
This won't be an issue endemic to Montville much longer. The vultures circle. They salivate. Their day has arrived.
Got a beef with a teacher or administrator in your kid's school?
Compose your narrative.
Throw enough against the wall.
Then sit back and wait for the blow torch to meet the Exxon Truck.
It's actually quite easy to ruin somebody's reputation now. Or jeopardize their livelihood. Just concoct your version of the truth — or not — and watch school system officials, already handcuffed by uncontrolled compulsions of image consciousness, cave at the thought of a lawsuit and the inherent expenses.
This is what's befallen Phil Orbe, the interim assistant principal at Montville High, who hasn't yet returned to his job, after being placed on administrative leave earlier this week because of a backpack.
And an agenda.
And an environment whose hypersensitivity has staged a coup d'état on common sense.
The two-minute drill version:
Orbe, mindful of a school-wide crackdown on students wearing backpacks in the hallways, confronted a male senior, with whom Orbe has a solid relationship.
"Three to five weeks ago, I came across a student in the hallway. It was the fourth or fifth time I had spoken to him about the backpack," Orbe said.
"I said, 'What do I have to do? Do I have to yell and scream?'" Orbe said.
Orbe said the student smiled.
"Jokingly, I added, 'Do I have to throw you down the hallway?'" Orbe said. "He smiled again and I smirked."
Orbe said, "The student, while smiling, said, 'I get it.' At no point did I raise my voice. At no point did I threaten him. At no point was my intent malicious."
Several school sources support Orbe's claims, saying the student in question was not offended or threatened.
Irrelevant, apparently. An offended party felt uncomfortable hearing Orbe say the words "throw you down the hallway" and snitched on Orbe earlier this week, a month later. And because Montville school officials are at DEFCON 1 because of allegations surrounding the now infamous fight club, Orbe became collateral damage.
Orbe has said all the right things since, assuming full responsibility for his actions and words and even understanding the decision to place him on administrative leave, given the climate. Smart move.
But you know what Phil Orbe was doing that day in the hallway?
And doing it in the best way possible.
This is the part that's most exasperating. Orbe uses the same principles as a principal that he used when he was winning three state championships as the school's baseball coach. He understands the necessity of developing deep rooted relationships with kids for many reasons, not the least of which is the influence that comes with communicating with them at their level.
He's not becoming their friend.
He's becoming the kind of mentor and guiding hand high school kids need more than a lung.
It is a quality of the best teachers, coaches and administrators.
Orbe could just as easily walk through the halls and be an affectation of an administrator: too self-important to deal with The Great Unwashed. Instead, he's worked to cultivate a relationship with the student in question — and many others — to the point where he was comfortable enough to use a little sarcasm to get his point across.
The kid got it.
The adults didn't.
The residual effect?
I can't imagine it is rainbows and lollipops working for the Department of Children and Families. I'm guessing overworked, understaffed and underpaid all apply. Can you imagine what it'll be like now, though, when every sniveling parent with an ax to grind can concoct a story to demand a DCF investigation of an administrator?
It won't just happen in Montville.
This will be rampant.
Until somebody — anybody — out there devises a punishment for false accusations. At this point, are there any consequences for throwing it against the wall with no basis in fact?
Orbe, and others who do their jobs caring about kids first, ought to be petrified. Who's to know when the next knock at the door is coming?
Meanwhile, our kids aren't being taught the vagaries of adversity and how the true lessons come from the inspiration of getting up, not the indignity of being knocked down. And our kids are becoming softer and softer, while parents get more empowered.
Maybe, though, somebody at DCF or the Montville hierarchy can find the time soon to get Orbe back in his office. Where he belongs. Helping the kids. Seems Montville High could use him these days.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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