The James Tate Affair


Just who is James Tate? If you don’t already know, he is the target of this week’s unbelievable piece of irony. Tate is a high school senior who attends Shelton High School in Shelton, Connecticut. He’s been thrown into the public eye because he has been banned from his high school prom. Why? Because he asked a girl to go with him. I was going to talk about voting to raise the debt ceiling, but this is too good to pass up.

To be fair, he wasn’t banned for asking the girl, but for the way he asked. He sent her a message. The message was in giant cardboard letters taped to the side of the school. I’m not kidding. Tate and some friends made cardboard letters and like Navy SEALs, snuck up to the school at night with a ladder and posted an old-fashioned text message. The school principal in response punished Tate for trespassing (because it was not during school hours) and putting students at risk of injuring themselves (because he climbed a really tall ladder.) The real punishment was an in-school suspension. Apparently, at Shelton High, a suspension after April 1st also gets you banned from the prom.

I have a couple of problems with this decision. One question is, what’s the deal with April 1st? My guess is that the policy was put in place to deter would be April Fool’s Day pranksters. It is not fair, however, to prevent those suspended one day from attending prom, while allowing those who were suspended the day before to attend. If the policy said if you are suspended at all you can’t go to the prom that would be fine. I think it would be a stupid punishment, but that’s just my opinion. The bigger question is what kind of message does this send? James Tate was being bold and creative. Aren’t those attributes that school’s should promote? We want kids to think outside the box. We want them to find new and creative ways to accomplish things. This is the most creative way to ask a girl to a dance that I have ever heard of.

Yes, he broke the rules but how is preventing him from going to prom a reasonable punishment? He has asked for some alternative, like community service and the school denied him. This thing is not going away though, because somebody in Hartford caught word of the story. That’s right, a state legislator is getting involved. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, Rep. Jason Perillo in offering an amendment to an education bill that would require Shelton High (and all Connecticut schools) to offer community service as an alternate punishment for being barred from any school function. I like that idea. I don’t like barring kids from school functions. These events define a school community and it is important that everyone be able to be involved.

I already saw cast suggestions for the film about this event. You gotta admit that if Tate and his date get to go, she did say yes, there will probably be applause when they walk in. It would be a genuine coup d’etat if they aren’t voted Prom King and Queen. It might not make such a bad film. We’ll have to see what happens next.

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