Published May 12, 2011
When I went to my junior high (they call it Middle School now) and high school proms, I invited my dates the old fashioned way: I called them on the telephone.
Now things are a little more creative. When18-year-old James Tate, a senior at Shelton High School in Connecticut, asked Sonali Rodrigues to accompany him to their prom, he wanted to make sure he got her attention. Tate and two friends posted a 12-inch high cardboard sign outside the school’s main entrance. The sign read: “Somali Rodrigues, Will you go to the prom with me?”
Instead of celebrating Tate’s originality, the school’s headmaster Dr. Beth Smith, invoked one of many “no tolerance” policies floating around these days and said that because Tate had posted the sign after school hours, he was guilty of trespassing. His punishment? He would not be allowed to attend the prom.
Is it too much to ask that the headmaster might think twice about her decision before depriving Tate, an honors student who has never been in trouble before, of the opportunity to experience this milestone? After all, you only get one senior prom, you only have one high school graduation.
Tate's creative message wasn’t posted in spray paint, in which case he might have been charged with defacing school property. It was put up on a cardboard sign, which means it is biodegradable. That should have appealed to the politically correct.
The Mayor of Shelton, Mark Lauretti, said he is not sure whether “the punishment fit the crime.” OK, let me be the one to state the obvious: The punishment did not fit the “crime.” The worst that could be said about is that it was a prank. I did worse in high school. I was never kept from going to my proms.
Does the Dr. Smith not remember being 18? Someone should sit her down and force her to watch the film “17 Again” in which an adult who has screwed-up his life and family is magically transported back to his old high school where he gets a second chance to make right choices. Every adult can identify with this film – from those who were jocks, to the popular and especially the unpopular.
Two Republican state legislators have introduced legislation – yes legislation! – that would require all Connecticut schools to provide an alternate means of punishment, rather than prohibiting students from participating in official school activities.
How about some of what used to be called common sense before senselessness became common? The headmaster should say she made a mistake, or require Tate to clean some blackboards or clap erasers, or write, “I won’t trespass again” one hundred times on the blackboard. Of course, if he were a member of what liberals see as a “protected class,” Tate could sue, but as a white male, he has no avenue of appeal.
A prom is one of the most significant events in high school. I still remember my date. I even remember what she was wearing! It was a great experience and a wonderful way to leave childhood behind and take the next step, hopefully towards responsible adulthood. Does the headmaster want to be the source of a bad taste in Tate’s mouth that will remain with Tate all his life?
As Danny and the Juniors sang in the 1950s song (on a 45 record) at my high school prom, “Let’s go to the hop!” James Tate should be allowed to go to his.
Cal Thomas is a Fox News contributor and America's most widely syndicated newspaper columnist. Follow him on Twitter @calthomas.