Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Prom Date

May 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Dating, Media, Newsmakers


Connecticut teenager James Tate invited a girl to the prom by stealing onto school property one night, climbing a ladder and pasting letters spelling out the invite on the wall of his high school.

The good news? She said yes! The bad news? He got banned from the prom for trespassing on school property. The story was covered by the Hartford Courant and quickly went viral — the Associated Press, UPI,  NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all weighed in. Matt Lauer interviewed the would-be-prom couple on the “Today” show and Tate appeared on “Jmmy Kimmel Live.” The Facebook page “Let James Tate Go To The Prom” has been  “liked” by more than 150,000 people.

Am I the only person whose response to the plight of James Tate is — who cares?

When you sneak onto school property under cover of darkness, climb your ladder and slap your letters up on the wall, you’re running the risk that the school’s administration won’t be pleased. They might even get punitive. Perhaps Shelton High’s response was a tad harsh. So what? Being a little harsh when teenaged boys get up in their grill is what high school administrators do. And last time I checked, there was nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing the right to acquire a prom date. There’s no great principle at stake here. So why is this even a news story?

Last year,  Constance McMillen was banned from prom at her Mississippi high school because she was a lesbian who planned to attend with her girlfriend.  She didn’t climb any ladders, post any signs or break any rules. All she did was be an out and proud lesbian at a high school whose administration didn’t want an out and proud lesbian at prom. When they tried to shut her out, the ACLU got involved. Litigation ensued. It quickly became a national news story. It deserved to be. It was about something. Intolerance and bigotry. Not to mention discrimination. Thankfully, the Constitution has something to say about that.

Maybe the Shelton High administration was seeking to prevent the school from being plastered with invites when prom rolls around next year. Maybe they wanted to discourage kids from climbing ladders on school property at night. Maybe they were just being jerks. Either way, it just doesn’t matter.  The headmaster has refused to back down. Two state legislators are reported to be drafting legislation to provide a remedy for James Tate. That’s just crazy. This isn’t much ado about nothing. This is much ado about less than nothing. A teenager takes a chance and things don’t turn out exactly the way he wanted?

That’s not news. That’s just life.