'Let James Tate go to the prom' crusade gains a Connecticut legislator
After high school senior James Tate got himself banned from prom for his dangerous (and dashing) prom invitation, public outcry flooded social networks and reached a politician's ears.
Romantic gesture or dangerous stunt? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.Skip to next paragraph
To high school senior James Tate and the friends who helped him, taping giant letters high up on the exterior wall of Shelton High School in Connecticut was a creative way to spell out an invitation to the prom.
To Headmaster Beth Smith, it was a case of trespassing that put the students at risk of hurting themselves, punishable by an in-school suspension. And because of a longstanding school policy, suspensions after April 1 come with a particular sting: No prom.
Sonali Rodrigues said yes to Mr. Tate’s invitation, taped up Friday, May 6. But her plans for the June 4 prom are still up in the air because of the drama that has ensued.
Tate’s pleas for an alternative punishment, such as community service, have not swayed the headmaster.
On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Smith made a brief statement to reporters, standing by the school policy: The rule “is reinforced over the course of the spring by daily PA system reminders, posted signage in common areas of the building and classrooms, as well as informational letters and automated phone messages to parents,” she said, according to GreenwichTime.com. “These communications are intended to remind our students and parents of the high school expectations and consequences. This unfortunate situation is a result of one of those consequences.”
The hundreds of thousands of people who have rallied around his cause since the news spread online this week say the punishment is unfairly harsh, not to mention ironic. But some educators say the popular reaction doesn’t take into account the tough job school administrators face in trying to consistently enforce rules.
When special events are approaching, he says, principals often remind students of the consequences of problematic behavior, “so they won’t make bad decisions,” says Mel Riddile, associate director for high school services at the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va.
No principal wants to have to ban a student from prom or graduation, but “if you back down, then you get accused of being inconsistent, playing favorites, so there’s no way to win on this from a popularity side of it,” he says.