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From the CTPost. 

Anne M. Amato, Staff Writer

SHELTON -- It began as a simple gesture. Shelton High School senior James Tate just wanted to make his good friend, Sonali Rodrigues, feel special.

So instead of the usual way of asking her to the senior prom, Tate and two friends went to the high school campus in the middle of the night and posted 12-inch tall, cardboard letters on the outside of the building -- at the main entrance.

The message that many saw when they arrived to school Friday, read: "Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to the prom with me? Tate."

She said yes.

"It took a lot of effort," said Tate.

He posted the letters, one at a time, in a "safe and thoughtful way" to avoid trouble.

But, it appears, that didn't work out.

Because of what he did, Tate can't go to the prom.

Tuesday, after meeting with his headmaster, Tate and his two friends were each given one day, in-house suspensions and banned from the prom. Tate was told the administration felt what they did was a safety risk.

But, the teen said, he took every precaution when he posted the message early Friday morning, sometime between 1 and 3 a.m.

"I had one friend hold the ladder while the other put double-sided tape on the letters," he said. Tate said he also wore a helmet.

He was told another reason for the suspensions was that they had trespassed on school grounds.

"I didn't enter the school at all," he said. And while the front gates to the school were locked, Tate said he and his friends were able to get onto the grounds on a foot path.

Tate said that, according to school regulations, if you get suspended after April 1, you can't go to the prom.

"I tried to appeal -- tried to just get a detention instead," he said. "I even offered to do community service -- like cleaning up the litter outside the school."

But, he said, nothing worked.

"Now I have a date for the prom, but can't go," he said.

"This is ridiculous," said Rodrigues. "James is one of my best friends and we are both good kids who never got in trouble. I've never been to the principal's office except to get an award."

Rodrigues was also called to the headmaster's office Tuesday morning. "They just asked me some questions, like would I still go to the prom if James couldn't," she said.

She will go, with a girlfriend, whose boyfriend has also been suspended for an unrelated incident.

"This is really upsetting," she said. "It's our senior year and we are supposed to have happy memories, not something like this."

Shelton High School headmaster Beth Smith did not return calls for comment Tuesday. Superintendent Freeman Burr declined comment, referring all questions to Smith.


Sign this petition to let Tate and his friends attend prom today!


Letter to
Headmaster Beth Smith
Housemaster David Presutto
Housemaster John Skerritt
and 13 others
Alderman Jack Finn
BOE Tim Walsh
BOE Win Oppel
BOE Paula Ellis
BOE Tim Walsh
BOE Kathy Yolish
BOE Michael Pocowta
BOE Kate Kutash
BOE John Francino-Quinn
BOE Arlene Liscinsky
BOE Win Oppel
Superintendant Freeman Burr
Housemaster Steven Swensen
I read the article in the Connecticut Post today, dealing with James Tate and company.

I'm writing to ask you to follow through by repealing James Tate and friends punishments, as well as letting the group attend the upcoming High School Prom. This is a preposterous motion on behalf of the Shelton BOE. A zero tolerance behavior policy has been proven throughout the public school systems history, to be a failure. James and friends did nothing more, than express themselves in a unique way. By making them scapegoats, this notion will not be forgotten in the near future.

I intend to get the local ACLU office involved if in fact, students are also being punished for tweeting. A right to free speech is what that founding fathers strived on. The right granted to us, is not to talk about the weather, but to mention controversial things.

You will find many other members of the community reaching out through this online petition, in support of these students.

Good Day,

J : started this petition with a single signature, and now has 2,533 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.