An important issue has come to my attention, so important in fact, that despite my sickening sinus/stress headache, I had to drop everything to let you all know about it, so we can act fast….
James Tate has been banned from his high school prom.
Stop the presses! What did this teenage miscreant do to deserve such a punishment? “Tate” (that’s what the cool kids call him) taped his prom invite to the FRONT OF THE SCHOOL! Come on, you know that the teenage girl in you just swooned! (Unless you were a teenage guy, then you’re thinking, “Man, all I did was make a nervous phone call!”) While the object of Tate’s affection–one Sonila Rodrigues did say “yes”–the “man” (down with “the man”!) Shelton High School Headmaster Beth Smith gave Tate and his merry band of helpers in-school suspension, meaning they are barred from the prom because they received their in-school suspension after April 1. If only Tate had committed his act of rebellion a few weeks earlier…
While I agree kids can’t recklessly climb around on ladders on school property (hear that stage crew, no ladders), Tate says, “I wore a helmet and brought friends along to hold the ladder and hand me the letters with tape on them.” (Source) I mean, come on, he wore a helmet and had his friends hold the ladder!!! Furthermore, the high school student even comes up with his own punishment, “I offered to collect litter around the school and argued other options.Give me a week of detention, but don’t give me an in-school suspension so that I can’t go to prom.” Perhaps my favorite Tate quote from The Patch article is this: “I feel like a jerk for getting my friends in trouble and for screwing Sonali out of a date.”
Here is my open appeal to Headmaster Smith:
Look, Headmaster Smith, give the kid a break. He feels like a jerk. He offered to scrape gum from underneath desks. And I’m pretty sure he’ll never do it again. Tate seems like a good kid with the purest of intentions. Show some good humor and give Tate and his friends a reprieve. No one will doubt your authority, but see you as the benevolent dictator that you are. Mr. Belding from “Saved By the Bell” would do it for Zach Morris and the gang and he was a princi-“pal” and I know that Professor Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts wouldn’t have banned Harry Potter (or the more likely offenders Fred and George Weasley) from the Yule Ball.
In fact, I do believe that Professor McGonagall sets a precedence for benevolent punishment when Harry flies around on his broomstick to help a fellow classmate retrieve his Remembrall in Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. She lefts Harry Potter join the Quidditch team! (Incidentally, McGonagall does become temporary headmaster in Dumbledore’s abscence and subsequent death. As a female headmaster yourself, I’m sure that McGonagall’s example of female leadership is an inspiration to you.) See, Headmaster Smith, you can be a Mr. Belding or a Professor McGonagall–not a Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club.
Let Tate and the Tatens go to the prom–for the teenage girl you used to be–and because you know you secretly think that what James Tate did was hilarious.
But if that doesn’t work, we can always further the cause…
If you want to lend your support to Tate, you can join the Facebook group: “Let James Tate Go to the Prom” (over 25,000 members and going strong) call these peple: Shelton High School – 203 922 3004 ext 512, Board of Education – 203 924 1023, Mayor’s Office – 203 924 1555, Superintendents Office – 203 924 1023, extension 302, sign this petition: “Let Tate and His Friends Go to Prom!“, write a humorous blog post, or come up with a hilarious idea of your own. In fact, I have a few of my own.
Perhaps, we can get 80’s teen icons like Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and John Cusack to lend celebrity support to the cause. I mean, John Cusack was in Say Anything, right? One look at that famous boom box scene and Headmaster Smith’s heart will melt. She will realize that teenage boys will do anything–and I mean anything–to get the girl. Perhaps John Cusack could go to Smith’s house with a boombox and re-enact the scene. Come on, John Cusack, Hot Tub Time Machine was a wash, get yourself some major publicity here.
Or we could just send her the movie Say Anything along with some Saved by the Bell DVD’s and a few Harry Potter books so she can see first-hand how to be a Mr. Belding or a Professor Dumbledore (or McGonagall).
Maybe we could just remind Headmaster Smith and the school board that teenagers are silly, foolish, and reckless, which is part of what it means to be a young adult. They are learning to be adults, but haven’t quite reached the maturity [some] actual adults possess. Instead of making James Tate and his friends an example, why not show them some grace? Perhaps the most valuable lesson you can teach these teens and the rest of the student body is that, yes, people do mess up and sometimes, not always, people don’t have to face the full punishment for their follies. Sometimes, Dr. Smith, it’s OK to be human and to let teenagers be the same.
Update 1: According to this Fox News article, the town’s mayor thinks James Tate’s case needs to be “re-examined.” Also, I sent John Cusack a Tweet and posted a message on his Facebook wall, but so far the actor has remained silent on the issue.
Do you think that James Tate and his friends should be allowed to go to the prom? What is the likelihood of John Cusack taking on our cause? What is your favorite “Saved By The Bell” epsiode? What does Shelton High School have a Headmaster instead of a principal? What are you going to do to help James get to the prom? And, finally, do you think that Matthew Morrison and I could chaperone this prom together?