Rules are made to be...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Broken" is the word that comes to mind, but it seems that in our ever-shifting times we live in, rules are enforced unless too many people cry foul.

Case in point: Shelton, Connecticut high school senior James Tate.

Tate, along with two classmates, trespassed on school grounds last week and taped a question - in one-foot-high letters - to the front of the school. Tate asked Sonali Rodrigues to the prom in the message, and in doing so in this manner, triggered a world-wide tempest.

The trio were suspended from school for a day for trespassing. This suspension triggered another, more widely-known policy at the school. The school's policy is that any person receiving a suspension for any reason after April 1 is barred from attending the prom in June.

Tate and Rodrigues appeared on NBC's "Today" show on Thursday, and the cry from the mob began to be heard.

A Facebook fan page called "Let James Tate Go to the Prom" garnered some 200,000 fans. The mayor of Shelton received emails from as far away as China and Australia in support of the couple. A sit-in was staged at the school, and even the governor of Connecticut said that while rules were broken, "it doesn't seem as though the punishment fits the crime."

School headmaster Beth Smith quickly became the target of the mob. On Friday, she insisted that no exceptions would be made to the rules.

By Saturday, she caved, deciding to implement a new policy, taking each case one at a time. Tate and his helpers will be given alternate punishment.

The mob had won out.

It's interesting to note that our society is trying to raise awareness of bullying and making efforts to stop this behavior. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines 'bully' as "to affect by means of force or coercion."

Headmaster Smith went through two days of intensive coercion before abandoning a sound discipline policy that had worked for years.

Perhaps the real lesson here is if you can't get what you want, go viral.

Who needs a mob with torches and pitchforks when you have Facebook?