SHELTON, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Lawmakers want a high school headmaster to take a second look at the case involving a student who asked a girl to the prom by taping a message to the front of the school and was subsequently barred from attending.

James Tate’s note read in big cardboard letters, “Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to the prom with me? HMU -Tate.” HMU means hit me up, or call me.

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Rodrigues said yes, but Tate was given a one-day suspension and is barred from the Shelton High School prom June 4.

Mayor Mark Lauretti on Wednesday told the Connecticut Post that the case may need another look.

“I’m not convinced the punishment here fits the crime, but I can say that about a lot of things,” Lauretti told the paper. “These are kids and kids make mistakes.”

School headmaster Beth Smith hasn’t commented. School Superintendent Freeman Burr said he’s aware of the national attention the case is getting and said he had no further comment on the issue at this time.

SOUND-OFF: Will School Officials Give In To The National Attention?  Will James Be Able To Take Sonali To The Prom? Share Your Thoughts In The Comments Section Below…

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Comments (19)
  1. Robert Pavlick says:

    I feel sorry for young Mr. Tate. I don’t think he’s the only one who will be missing the prom. If other students chose to do things which got them suspended then they will be barred from the prom too and it wouldn’t be fair to them to make an exception only for Mr. Tate.

    As an institution of education, this may very well be the most important and valuable lesson in life that his school will have given him, namely the reality that all of our choices in life have a price or a consequence and that we can’t act without thinking first and weighing the cost.

    Admittedly, the original offense is fairly petty, but there is a principle at stake here. If the school just overlooks this, they will be teaching him and his peers that rules don’t matter and that any conduct is acceptable and someday they may break a rule that ruins the rest of their lives or ends their lives prematurely.

    The headmaster is merely trying to teach these students that in the REAL world you can’t just do as you please. If you do, you will end up unemployed, homeless, in prison or dead.

  2. Patricia Lane says:


    Kenneth Risenhoover
    A prom pardon
    Posted: 05/13/2011 4:16 PM
    In our wildest dreams, who’d have imagined Shelton’s road to national attention this week!

    I know Jim Tate; he has worked at our farm. He is quiet, thoughtful and clearly innovative. He has a heart of gold as do his parents, both of whom have served the greater Valley on many volunteer projects in the realm of historic preservation and land conservation. They are good people.

    I do not know Shelton High School Headmaster Beth Smith. But I do remember in the aftermath of the fire that damaged SHS in late December 2009, she worked tirelessly to get the school ready to re-open for her students. She may have even slept at night in her office to help the 24/7 efforts. Clearly she loves her school.

    The trick is to balance the response with fairness and an appropriate sense of humor. Every parent knows the wisdom and patience required to raise their children in an environment of fairness. Nothing will bring disharmony faster to a home than unequal governance of the children. We can only imagine the challenge of fairness and justice within a high school family of more than 1,000 students.

    Shelton can take a lesson from our past. Nearly a century ago, especially around Halloween, teenagers engaged in creative activities that would capture the attention and intrigue of our town. Harry Brownson was a Huntington farmer (etched in our local history by his and his wife Gertrude’s generous donation of land which became the Brownson Country Club). Harry observed a band of teens late on a Halloween night struggling to push his large farm wagon out of the barnyard and up Ripton Road to the top of a hill. He quietly slipped into the gang and helped with the prank. At the top of the hill all paused for breath. Harry Brownson stood up tall and announced, “OK boys! We’ve had our fun, now let’s pitch in to bring her back.” And they did.

    In our collective hearts, I think we all wish we could have been there with Jim Tate on the wall in the wee hours of last Friday morning, with hope and love applying the invitation. We would hold the ladder and chuckle with anticipation of the amazement our extended school family would show upon seeing his creativity.

    Hopefully Headmaster Smith would also have enjoyed the moment just as Harry Brownson did. And then, if only she could say, “OK boys, we’ve had our fun, let’s pull the wagon back to the barn.” If only she could put this wagon away and revel with our community in the pure sweetness of a quiet teen reaching out with humor and love to his close friend.

    Perhaps in the spirit of Harry Brownson, school officials should take a deep collective breath and turn to some higher authority (mayor?) to declare a “Prom Pardon” for Jim Tate. In return, officials, rather than continue a non-productive and community-embarrassing stalemate, could assign Mr. Tate and his student supporters, some of whom are advocating for an alternative prom, a project to convert that energy to working together on a project useful to the school and our town. This would be a fitting alternative. It would teach leadership and the joy of reaping the rewards of community service.

    Terry Jones, of Shelton, runs Jones Family Farms and serves on the Shelton Economic Development Commission and the state Board of Education. This commentary reflects his personal thoughts.

  3. Mary says:

    On the facebook page supporting James, there were some offers made such as a band and a building if James wanted to have his own prom. I think the students should request a refund for the prom tickets and simply put it together to have their own. The hell with Dr. Smith, she will look like a fool when prom day comes and know one shows up for the school sponsored prom. All it takes is creativity and community support rallying for James and his date to put this together. C’mon, classmate boycott and do you own thing.

  4. tmsay93 says:

    Wow. Harsh. Why is this lady being such a stickler? Coming from a senior in HS my self, missing our last Prom and on top of that all the other senior activities that he will miss because he was a gentlemen, which you dont see anymore is horrible. This is our senior year, which will only happen this one time, there’s no red’s and this lady knows that. Going through 12 plus years of school to miss out on the most important one of them all because of trespassing? Last year the senior prank was 100x worst and they got less of a punishment, because our staff knows its a prank, knows that its part of being a senior and know that they did it just as well. So maybe this lady needs to be punished for what she did her senior year? Maybe she should be fired…would that punishment fit her crime from her senior year… no not really but since were not being fair then it doesn’t matter does it?

  5. kevin says:

    I wish you guys wold post the REAL story. The punishment was not that he was banned from prom. James got an in-school suspension and our school rule is that if one of us gets an in-school after April 1st, then that person will not attend any senior activity such as prom, senior banquet, and senior picnic. The signs were up stating this rule a few weeks before April first, so our headmaster and housemasters stuck with their rule. He got an in-school for supposed trespassing, not for making a cute sign. The in-school led to no senior activities

    1. Head Master says:


      Thank you so much for explaining that to all of us stupid adults, who don’t understand the world as well as a high school student. Believe it or not, we understand the rules of your little school.

      The pont is that he never should have been suspended in the first place. That is the punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. Imposing a punishment that your Headmaster knew would result in the student being banned from the prom is excessive, cold and just cruel. Your headmaster needs to understand that she’s not running a prsion camp. The young man made a mistake, and Ms. Smith followed up with her own mistake. She has the opportunity to corrrect her mistake. That is if she were a nice person.

    2. Mike says:

      Kevin, I went through the Student handbook that was on line for anyone to read, NO WHERE in there does this statement show up, Maybe this was a posting, but that is not something the students were aware of by signing at entrance to the school year. Yes rules are rules, BUT, I am sure you do things that break rules in life, I am sure you speed while driving, roll through stop signs, etc. while all of those LAWS are for safety, I am SURE YOU break the rules to, and did you do something similar as a senior? or were you the student that had no friends to do anything like that?

  6. Hank says:

    Think Shelton,Ct.! All of the negative publicity that Shelton is receiving is worse than the prom suspension given to James Tate

  7. Wade says:

    Suspension is completely out of line as punishment for the “crime”. He did not do any permanent damage…..he could have used spray paint and really defaced the property. A “sentence” of one day of “clean up” would have been more appropriate. But then, our school administrators are not paid to think but write the rules and then follow them to the letter of the :law” without a thread of common sense.

  8. Jeremy Ratliff says:

    Every student at the school should boycott the prom and go somewhere else on the evening of the prom……just to show the principle what an idiot she is!!

    It scares me to know that people like her are in charge of the education of children in our country! She has no business being in her position!! She should resign!

  9. Richard Ruh says:

    Until the dawn of the 21st Century, the initiative and ingenuity shown by James Tate and his friends would have been rewarded by the Headmaster, the mayor and the town. Time was that the term “Yankee Ingenuity” was considered as a badge of honor. Perhaps the “headmaster”,of the Shelton High School should be re-assigned as the “Master of the Head.”

    Dr. Beth Smith should resign her position, for she clearly has no idea of how to recognize students who possess the character and drive we need to nurture in young people in Shelton, CT and across the breadth of America. I’m no fan of “social media,” but it is inconceivable that Dr. Smith, as Headmaster of Shelton High School, could think that this situation would not raise concern about her ability to groom the leaders of tomorrow, nor that this wouldn’t create an Internet sensation.

  10. James says:

    The psychological damage this kid will suffer for denying him attendance to his prom will last a lifetime. His “crime” does not fit the punishment. Let the kid go to the prom!

  11. Ellie D says:

    I go to Shelton High School and, not that i don’t think my headmaster is wrong, but most of the news reporters have the punishment wrong. The punishment was not that he was banned from prom. James got an in-school suspension and our school rule is that if one of us gets an in-school after April 1st, then that person will not attend any senior activity such as prom, senior banquet, and senior picnic. The signs were up stating this rule a few weeks before April first, so our headmaster and housemasters stuck with their rule. He got an in-school for supposed trespassing, not for making a cute sign. The in-school led to no senior activities. Also, Sonali and James have no chemistry. They’re just friends.

  12. Florence says:

    It seems lately that schools everywhere have a zero tolerance because they would rather have a student population of sheep rather than independent or outside their box thinkers. So what’s the big deal here? His sign hurt no one and the punishment does not fit the occasion. The school has lost it’s sense of humor.

  13. Lauren says:

    Not only should this kid not be punished in any way, his parents deserve an applause for raising such a romantic young man! I can only imagine how Sonali felt when seeing that post. This school principal needs to acknowledge that she was out of line and show Tate that she’s not too proud to say “I made a mistake and I am sorry.”. Good luck Tate!

  14. Jean says:

    @Piccolo the one day suspension at our school actually relates to the policy. Any student that receives an in school suspension after April 1st is barred from prom. He should have been just let off with a detention in my opinion.

  15. Piccolo says:

    I think the 1 day suspension is more than enough punishment. Let the kid go to prom!

  16. Tiah says:

    I can’t even figure out what he did wrong. Are you not supposed to tape things up, or something?

  17. nathan says:

    Heck with the prom. Sonali, give it up for James Tate.

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