James Tate, a senior at Shelton High School in Connecticut, worked through the night posting 12-inch letters on his school building to grandly ask his friend to prom. She said yes. But his school said no, suspending him for bad behavior. And the world says boo, hisssssss. Update: Headmaster gives statement and sticks to her no-fun guns! (Read more below.)
According to a Connecticut paper, the message read, “Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to prom with me? HMU [Hit Me Up] Tate.” He and two friends had worked from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. on a Friday morning to get the display up before school. Tate says he took safety precautions: one friend held a ladder, one friend wielded the double-sided tape, and he did the plastering while clad in a helmet. But, despite his offers to do community service or some other penance rather than miss the big night, Tate says his headmaster was unsympathetic and barred them all (which is probably why she’s a headmaster instead of a princi-pal).
The world has rallied to the support of James Tate. A Facebook group, aptly named “Let James Tate Go to Prom” is liked by more than 120,000 people. There are reports of his fellow students toting around “Team Tate” signs. And he’s gotten more than a little attention from the media, making an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night and the Today Show, er, today. The headmaster is expected to make an announcement at 4 p.m. Will she cave, to the joy of romantics everywhere, putting life experience above convention and letting the boy have his dance? If not, NewsFeed suggests he take to the streets, Safety Dance-style.
(MORE: A Brief History of the Prom)
Update: Headmaster Beth Smith had said she would give a response at 4 p.m., and boy, she did. She was given two possible lessons to teach the kids in this situation: (1) rules are rules or (2) when the world rallies for a cause, change can be effected. And despite knowing that she is going to likely be painted as one of history’s bigger curmudgeons, she went with Lesson No. 1.
You could tell from the first sentence that things weren’t going to go Tate’s way: “Good afternoon, Shelton High School is a learning community where students are expected to meet high academic and behavioral expectations.” What are those droplets of water from? Oh, it’s the wet blanket she’s about to throw on the prom.
Smith went on to talk about how many years the school has had a policy of barring students from the dance who are suspended after April 1. She followed this with descriptions of how this rule is reiterated and reinforced by announcements, signs and letters, which are supposed to remind parents and students of “high school expectations and consequences.” And Smith said that “this unfortunate situation is a result of one of those consequences.”
One might point out that this misses the point on some level, given that Tate clearly wouldn’t have made his romantic gesture if he thought it would end in a suspension and thus a banning from prom. But you’ve got to admire her determination and willingness to be the bad guy in the name of her rules, however tragic her policy of being mechanically, stoically uncompromising.