James Tate…THIS is When They Choose to React?

Published on May 11, 2011 by Jennifer Laviano

Like everybody in the State of Connecticut, and the nation, and it seems the world, I am following the James Tate story. 

And no, I do not represent him. 

I will be dating myself with this reference, but not since I was prom-aged myself have I seen such an adorable, romantic gesture as James' prom invite.  I mean, unless John Cusack is hanging outside your door holding a boom-box over his head playing some Peter Gabriel, does it GET better than this?  I think not. 

Enter the villain…the school district.

While clearly I disagree with how the Shelton School District has handled this case, my beef is not specific to them, though they were the ones involved in this case.  I hope they will see fit to reconsider their rash decision here.  My beef is with the way that school districts in general operate.  There is no sense of individualism.  No sense of reason.  No shades of gray.  It's all black and white.  “Zero Tolerance.”  Blah blah blah.

Now, I'm sure, if asked, many public school administrators would blame lawyers like myself for this approach.  “We have to have RULES so we can comply with the LAW!” they would protest.  “Aren't YOU always telling us that we need to have POLICIES in place?”

Yes.  But not stupid policies.  And not arbitrary rules, applied when you want, to whom you want.

I've been in schools enough to know that the “rules” are not usually enforced equally.  There are favorites, and there are targets.  Examples are made in the most ridiculous of cases.   And yet, I have to jump up and down and file all sorts of complaints to get the most basic of my client's special education needs acknowledged, let alone met. 

Why is it that school districts completely UNDER-REACT to their obligations under IDEA, but OVER-REACT to sweet, innocent prom proposals?

Let's stop cookie cutting our approach to kids.  Let James Tate take his date to the prom.  In the words of another 80s dance/prom/movie icon, John Lithgow in Footloose:  “if we don't trust our children, how can we ever expect them to be trustworthy?”  Or something like that.


James is going to the prom.   The administration reconsidered, and James is the front-runner for Prom King.  Great news. 

More to come…


4 Responses to James Tate…THIS is When They Choose to React?

  1. Gunner Hawthorne
    May 11th, 2011 | 11:31 pm

    Well stated! There is seldom equity when these rules are enforced. If he were captain of the football team or class president, are we having this disscussion?

  2. Missy Alexander
    May 15th, 2011 | 8:19 am

    I second that!

  3. Carolyn Bilelis
    May 16th, 2011 | 12:14 pm

    Totally agree – what a ridiculous case to make an example of. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Say Anything reference!!

  4. Angela Keef
    May 16th, 2011 | 8:03 pm

    Well said…totally agree. I have witnessed many stupid things, this one almost takes the cake!!! I am glad they reconsidered, but depressed it took a national headline and debate to do so!!!