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    Should James Tate be allowed to go to prom?

    Date: 05.11.11 | by Judge Tom.

    James Tate is a senior at Shelton High School in Connecticut. He’s an Advanced Placement student  with no disciplinary record. He wanted to do something special for his good friend when asking her to the prom. Unfortunately, his creativity wasn’t appreciated by the principal.

    James and two of his friends posted twelve inch high cardboard letters on the school’s outside wall which read, “Sonali Rodrigues Will you go to the prom with me? HMU -Tate”. (For all of you non-teens out there, HMU means “hit me up.”) Although Sonali was happy with the invite and said yes, the school administrators were not too pleased with the stunt which they claim posed a safety risk. All three were given one day in-school suspensions and banned from the prom. They were also told that they were trespassing since this happened when the school was closed.

    James was quoted saying: “I’m a jerk, you know, because I was telling her for the longest time I was going to go with her. But you know, I was waiting for a special time, a special way to ask her. And I did that and this is what happened.”

    As for the safety issue, James believes he posted the letters in a “safe and thoughtful way.” His two friends assisted by one of them holding the ladder while the other put double-sided tape on the letters. James wore a helmet while posting the letters to the wall. He also stated that they never went into the school and therefore were not trespassing. Although the front gates were locked during the early morning hours on Friday, they were able to use a footpath to get to the wall where they posted the message.

    A Facebook page supporting James called Let James Tate Go to the Prom already has over 100,000 likes.

    James and Sonali

    Tell us what you think about this and whether the school administrators should let James go to prom. Assuming James broke a school rule, what discipline do you think is appropriate? Do you think barring him from his senior prom fits the situation? Remember this also affects Sonali who hopes the school will reverse its decision so she won’t have to go to the prom alone.

    In 1992, the Supreme Court stated: “Everyone knows that, in our society and in our culture, high school graduation is one of life’s most significant occasions.”* Although James may be missing his prom and not graduation, can’t the same argument be made that senior-prom is a once-in-a-lifetime event?

    James appeared on the Today Show on May 12, 2011 and explained what happened. You can watch it here. Later he and Sonali appeared by Skype on the Jimmy Kimmel Show here and were good sports about his kidding around about the incident. On a more serious note, Headmaster Beth Smith announced that the discipline remains. She explained that it is well-known throughout the school that any infractions after April 1 result in a ban from the prom.

    Although this won’t help James and Sonali, legislation was introduced this week in the Connecticut legislature to limit school discipline to community service hours for students approaching prom time. If passed, this would be more in line with what the Supreme Court had in mind.

    *Lee v. Weisman (USSC 1992) regarding prayer in public schools.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    5 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Wed, 11 May 2011 at 07:15

      This teen is getting a ton of support thru Facebook page. Should James Tate be allowed to go to prom? http://bit.ly/j8yyf2 #teamtate

    • rory adams
      Thu, 12 May 2011 at 07:43

      Look I’m not saying it’s not cute what he did but this problem is clearly on of class. Fact is he belongs to the golf club for god’s sake. He trespassed on school property and committed vandalism. He should be arrested let alone just a one day suspension and being banned from prom. If he was any one else and came from any other class structure he would have been arrested and possibly expelled. SO he doesn’t get to go to prom booo whoo but fact is he broke the law. And he should face the consequences just like anyone else would.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Rory.

    • Amanda
      Fri, 13 May 2011 at 05:22

      Rory you’re acting like a person who has a problem with kids in the golf club and happen to fall in extraordinary circumstances. He has no disciplinary record and did not come in guns blazing, breaking fences, destroying property, or anything of the like. He even included to wear a helmet and get assistance in posting the letters so that they would not fall down and create a safety hazard. Should he have been banned from prom and suspended? No, that is the typical school administration enjoying ruining student discipline records and making sure that they don’t have to watch them at prom. It is a lazy, unfair, and ignorant move on their part. Should he get in some sort of trouble? Yes, he did do something he probably shouldn’t have, but it isn’t worth all of the trouble. If he had been spoken to and disciplined less severely this issue probably would have never happened. He did face the consequences and is acting quite mature. The headmaster is acting as though James Tate murdered her puppy and is now taking revenge on every one of his friends and family.

    • Mike Rosecky
      Tue, 24 May 2011 at 11:20

      The #USAirForce is using #biofuel #camelina. Will this interest the public?

    • Oklahoma City Divorce Attorney Matt Ingham
      Sat, 02 Jul 2011 at 11:48

      Sounds to me like the punishment does not fit the crime…sure it is okay for the principal to punish James, but the punishment has to fit the crime.

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