Photo: ctpost.com

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.

  • roz warren May 15, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I thought Diane Sawyer had more sense than that.

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  • Donna Hoff May 15, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Oops, I meant you “lose privileges” not “loose privileges”! Sorry – I should proof before I submit!

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  • Donna Hoff May 15, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I agree with this essay and the people who commented. Imagine my disgust when I heard that Diane Sawyer named this kid as her person of the week! And then, thanks to all the outside pressure, the school officials caved and he’s now going to be allowed to go to his prom. What kind of lesson is this giving: that if you can get enough foolish people to “take up your cause”, if you can get the social media behind you, then you can “blackmail” your way to what you want. I’m really sorry that the school caved on this but I also understand how difficult it must have been – I heard that an elected official even got involved! However, where are his parents – certainly not parenting! Shame on them for allowing this and allowing him to break the rules and get away with it. A prom is NOT life and death, it is NOT a right. If you break the rules, you loose privileges and that’s exactly what this incident was. And we wonder why crime is spiking and people are showing less and less personal responsibility.

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  • roz warren May 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Nicci I think you’ve nailed it — in this culture, if you’re cute you can’t be wrong!

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  • Nicci Leandra Faw May 14, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Very well said and it really goes to show the way that people think these days. because what he did was “cute” people actually are willing to over look the fact that what he did was WRONG. They are willing to say oh no no look how cute take back his punishment how wrong that he should have to pay for what he did, i mean ….this is so cute!

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  • Alex MacAaron May 14, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Thank you Roz for being a voice of reason in this ongoing and silly story. I completely agree with you. While the kid has my sympathy (and I think his gesture was endearing and romantic), he broke the rules – he trespassed and he defaced school property. Rules cannot be subjective, period.

    So, he’ll miss his prom. But, he should look on the bright side. He can probably get a book and a TV movie deal out of this.

    Thanks again!

    Reply

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