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School chief relents, allows boy to go to prom after all

SheltHigh School seniors Sonali Rodrigues James Tate stoutside Connecticut school. Tate asked Rodrigues prom by posting big letters side school.

Shelton High School seniors Sonali Rodrigues and James Tate stand outside the Connecticut school. Tate asked Rodrigues to the prom by posting big letters on the side of the school. | AP

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Updated: June 16, 2011 12:26AM

SHELTON, Conn. — A high school headmaster on Saturday announced she had changed her decision to bar a senior from prom after he asked a girl to the dance by posting an invitation in big cardboard letters on the side of the school.

Shelton High School headmaster Beth Smith had said that James Tate’s punishment was the result of a well-publicized policy outlining consequences for anyone getting into trouble at school after April 1.

But on Saturday, Smith announced a policy change. Now, the school will decide prom attendance for suspended students on a “case-by-case” basis. In Tate’s case, he may go to the prom.

Smith acknowledged the “international notoriety” the case received on social-networking sites had an effect. Students also had staged a protest sit-in.

Tate’s punishment had followed his posting, with the help of two friends, a prom invitation made of 12-inch-tall cardboard letters outside the main entrance to the school last week.

The message read: “Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to the prom with me? HMU — Tate.” HMU means “hit me up,” or “call me.”

Rodrigues said yes. But Tate and his two friends were given one-day in-house suspensions by Smith and were barred from the June 4 prom in Shelton, a city of about 40,000 residents 45 miles southwest of Hartford.

Tate was told that posting the message constituted trespassing and posed a safety risk. His plight has made him a cause celebre — he appeared on talk shows including NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“Me and Sonali are good people, and we should have been able to attend the prom together,” Tate told the “Today” show.


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