What’s worse than Connecticut getting national attention for all the wrong reasons (again)? An educator who is so punch drunk with her own authority that she finds it necessary to be called ‘headmaster’ (it’s a public school) and then actually script an impassioned defense of her ridiculous decision to bar the kid from the prom. Add to that two Republican state legislators who are supposedly of the “government get out” and “let the locals decide their own fate” school of thought proposing legislation to address the “issue” and you’ve got the state becoming the butt of jokes across the country.
There are several aspects of the story that are humorous. First, the student at Shelton High School, James Tate and his buddies executed a rather tame “defacing” of a school building with a message taped to cardboard from Tate to the girl he wanted to take to the prom. “SONALI RODRIQUEZ WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME? HMU –TATE” (HMU means “Hit me up” or “contact me” and yes, I had to ask). Tate wore a helmet and had a buddy hold the ladder when he put the sign up—safety first, you know.
Had The Shad and his fish buddies in high school been suspended for every prank we pulled, we never would have seen the light of day. Plastering the school grounds with “For Sale” signs, taking the hinges out of locker doors so the person opening it got a surprise and knocking over a particular mailbox after every school dance come to mind. (Sorry about that last one. The guy eventually cemented the thing three feet deep into the ground.)
But let’s return to the real problems. “Headmaster” Beth Smith found it necessary to read a tightly scripted defense of her decision to ban Tate and his friends from prom (when did it go from “THE prom” to “prom?”). Smith responded like she was defending a foreign policy decision. And to make things even stupider—if that’s possible—the mayor of Shelton now says Tate has a 50-50 chance of being allowed to go to prom.
“Headmaster” Smith tried to convince us that a ridiculous policy isn’t a ridiculous policy if you publicize it enough. Tate himself seems very much nonplussed by the whole thing and is probably laughing at the exposure he and the whole situation is getting (The “Today” show? Seriously?).
And maybe the most cynical response of all is from Republican state Reps. Jason Perillo of Shelton and Sean Williams of Waterbury. They say they are drafting legislation that would force schools to give students an option of community service for a policy violation within the last month of the school year. These guys obviously had visions of national face time and plenty of personal ink. Why else would they stray from the GOP mantra of less government and local control over education policy? All that goes out the window when there is serious press to be had. It’s even more curious in Williams’ case. He is seen as a rising star in the party. But he won’t go anywhere with stunts like this. He’s not a member of the education committee nor is Shelton in his district. Pathetic.