James Tate had a unique way to invite Sonali Rodrigues to the prom; he and his friends posted large letters to the wall at his high school entrance. Romantic? Fun? Maybe. Banned from the prom? Yes.
He received an in-school suspension for his antics. However, his high school's policy is that any suspension results in a punishment such that the offending student is banned from the prom. People are stating that the punishment does not fit the crime.
This has hit the media in a firestorm. #teamtate is on twitter. Facebook pages have been created. James and Sonali have been interviewed by the “Today” show and on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” It is interesting to me that the parents don't seem to get interviewed. Just James, Sonali, and his friends have received national media attention. What about the parents? What are their thoughts? What did they discuss with their son after the incident occurred? Schools are responsible for helping develop character in their students. However, parents are still primary in this arena. It's almost as if parenting is even considered. This can be such a learning tool for so many teenagers out there. Expectations, rules, character development, social media, and so much more can be discussed with our teens from this one simple case.
Now, Connecticut State Rep. Jason Perillo and State Rep. Sean Williams are "drafting legislation that would allow school administrations, along with the parents and the student, to create a community-service option to determine the best course of discipline." While this is noble, I can't believe a law is necessary for this. Why can't the local PTA, the school board, or school district leaders make school discipline in general an issue to discuss? No. Apparently, a state law is this answer.
I think there is something more important that is being missed here; the school, parents, and students, need to communicate. There needs to be a forum in which the schools principles and parenting skills are equally appreciated. Perhaps the answer is that local school officials or the school district officials sit down with parents and students with the purpose of composing a set list of disciplinary measures applicable to various different infractions.
Update May 14, 2011
As it turns out, Shelton High School had a change of heart. They decided that James Tate could go to the prom after all. Romance is not dead 🙂