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Retired Teacher on James Tate Prom Ban: Shelton HS Headmaster ‘Has a Backbone’

At least one person is speaking out in support of the Shelton High headmaster's decision to punish James Tate with no prom.

Amid the outcry against the administration's to push-back against ’s at least one former teacher says he agrees with the punishment.

Like many others around the nation, Paul Guerino of Elmhurst, IL read the stories about high school senior James Tate having his over a creative date proposal deemed violation.

But while tens of thousands of people joined Facebook groups in support of Tate and hundreds more commented on, emailed and called Patch to express their disappointment in Shelton High Headmaster Dr. Beth Smith, a different opinion that Smith had done the right thing came from Guerino.

Guerino is a retired teacher. He taught in the Chicago area for 45 years and is currently vying for a seat on the local public school board. Over the years, he said he has seen many accidents and injuries in schools where the blame wrongly falls on administration.

“Several of my friends were sued because children have been injured when they’ve been theoretically under the supervision of a teacher,” Guerino said.

He recalls one incident where a student slipped on grass while running during physical education class, landed on broken glass and suffered minor cuts. The child’s parents took legal action and won.

“Why these parents support these kids when they sue if the kid got hurt on no one’s fault absolutely blows my mind,” Guerino said.

In Tate’s case, Guerino feels the no-prom punishment is warranted because the student’s actions were “very dangerous” and posed a risk the school could be held accountable for, even if no teachers were involved.

“I figured he was at least 20 – 30 feet off the ground,” Guerino said. “If he fell he could have been seriously injured, had head trauma or even died. The teacher’s punishment sets a good example because she is looking to protect students. And all these people are saying she’s evil and in the wrong? I don’t get it.”

Guerino said it is hard to be an administrator in a public school, because oftentimes officials worry about appeasing taxpayers at the expense of student safety.

“When that happens there becomes no consequences – kids do stuff and experience no repercussions,” he said.

Dr. Smith has yet to comment on James Tate’s situation, and Guerino expressed that he “feels sorry” for her. However, he applauds her for being no shrinking violet, even as other students prepare to create for Tate himself.

“What this principal did was right. Not popular, but right. She’s got a backbone and that’s rare for administrators these days,” he said.

Terry May 13, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Perhaps James Tate's actions were "dangerous" (although he showed caution in wearing a helmet when he taped the cardboard to the building), but they hardly warranted this ridiculous punishment. Did Dr.Smith even review the kid's file before she handed down her sentence? If so, a reasonable person would have given him an afternoon detention instead of barring him from the prom. Chin up, James: My children go to Shelton High and support you fully. Also, anyone I know who's attended the Shelton prom says its highly overrated.
Richard May 13, 2011 at 05:23 PM
"You have to give the ultimate punishment or they NEVER LEARN!"... Wow! Really? No flexiability whats so ever....... and you "taught" there? Now that is scary! I felt you had a somewhat valid argument (although I disagreed with it) until I read this. Mary, Please stay away from children. … Seriously! I sure hope you are not affiliated with the Judicial System.
Steve A May 13, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Guerino you sir (use the term losely) are a moron and jerk for agreeing with that piece of trash! Being from around your area, I hope you STAY retired and LOSE out on any school position you may run for. There is no room for your Judge Dredd mental midget mentality in our schools! You have a bully mentality. Just because kids are students does not mean it is a free ticket to disrespect them and treat them as if they have no rights. Kids that listen to jerks like you do so to avoid problems from your wrath. Not because they are learning justice, tolerance of people not being perfect and TRUE right and wrong. You want iron fisted control, go join the mitlary. A school is not a mitlary base. Don't act like it should be ran as such. Someone like you that has such distain for kids and young people has no business working in a school! Climb down off your high horse and shut the hell up!
Patricia Day May 13, 2011 at 05:47 PM
While I agree with Mr. Guerino in the sense that something needed to be done, I definitely disagree with the fact that it had to result in this, from what I hear, STRAIGHT A STUDENT, losing out on going to what some consider to be 1 of the biggest events in their 4 years of high school. I am not going to judge Dr. Smith too harshly, but I believe her decision could be changed to perhaps community service or something to that affect. Wishing this young man the best of luck in whatever else life brings your way.
Patricia Day May 13, 2011 at 05:49 PM
To JUDY: Yeah, maybe she should be the Head of ALL PRISONS, then maybe people would be less likely to commit their crimes. Knowing the pit pull is on the other side.
james t May 13, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Steve, you should have paid attention better in school. Then your grammar and spelling would be less than embarrassing. Not to mention your debate skills. Not one of your premises (and I use the term loosely) are substantiated in any way. If you have completed school you should try another round, if not, you'd better stop flapping off and get to work because so far you are the moron. I can applaud your apparent knowledge of old Stallone movies but if you put that kind of energy into school perhaps you'd have a good job instead of spending your days online ranting. Although nowadays I suppose your generation does this from work since I'm sure you expect that it is your "RIGHT" to be paid to surf the internet. You kids are a sad display and I am just happy that your grandparents don't have to see the miasma you spew online. If they aren't dead yet it would be enough to kill them. When we were kids this wouldn't be an issue because nobody would dare do such a stupid thing.
Steve A May 13, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Look James I went back and read your previous replies. While I can understand the sickening feeling you must have had dealing with such events, how does that even remotely apply to this. You are talking about a very SERIOUS crime in what sounds like child porn. What is being discussed here is SEVERAL students not going to prom and probable more having it negatively affected for them. All over a paper sign being taped up on the school. There are few things I have no tolerance for in this world. People who abuse children, people who abuse animals. And bullies, which is exactly what Dr Smith is. There is no SPINE needed for what she did. Oh yea bring on all the SPINE in the world when your talking about a situation like the one you personally dealt with. But bring on the understanding and a little decency when your dealing with a young man hanging up a sign asking for a damn date!
SINDEE DANE May 13, 2011 at 08:17 PM
I AM 75 YRS OLD AND I THINK THIS BOY AND HIS FRIENDS SHOULD GO TO THE PROM AFTER 12 YRS. OF SCHOOL THIS IS ONCE IN A LIFE TIME SO HE MADE A MISTAKE BUT EVERYTHING TURNED OUT OK NOBODY GOT HURT TEEN AGERS DO STUPID THINGS BUT THIS WASN;T THAT BAD. LOOK AT ALL THE BULLYING THAT IS GOING ON AND MOST SCHOOLS DON'T DO NOTHING. LOOK WHAT IS GOING ON WITH OUR POLITITIONS WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND ARE GETTING AWAY WITH IT SCOT FREE.
Katrease Schaff May 13, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Wow....if that ain't the most idiodic thing to happen to a student i don't know what is.....Wow
Nora May 13, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Sounds like this guy would be a perfect match for "Nurse Ratchitt" Headmaster Smith. They could sit on their High Horses and judge all around them with smug self righteousness. When 99.9 percent of the population thinks your wrong and you can't even see the truth in your pathological logic then the only thing to do is write you off as bonified nuts. People like these should never be given positions of power because they abuse them. I am so glad to see that so many people have stood up against these tyrants. It restores my faith in people......By the way you should rent "One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest" You and this psycho Headmaster remind me of "Nurse Ratchitt"
David Johnson May 13, 2011 at 09:54 PM
As for the Backbone idea Mr. Paul Guerino...Naw, I don't and won't believe that bone head idea! She just doesn't have a Heart! As for you standing up for the Head master...You're way OUT VOTED on that idea as well... So many other options were and are available to the Head master, for her to make her point! But SHE chose to make it a MAJOR issue, rather than make the boy understand the consequences of his actions before hand! Now, if you and the great master head don't see the support as a outcry of your stupidity in this handeling of the matter??? Then the good people of the Shelton have a better recourse of action....Fire the school board, as well as the Beth Headmaster, seeking a more understanding group of people to handle their kids! Make a change BS Headmaster! or Change is heading your direction soon! Count on it....
Dawn Lawrence May 13, 2011 at 10:52 PM
Students need to be more accountable for there own actions, but to use a parent sueing over broken glass is no comparrison if there was glass where they school knows the kids will be that is the schools fault they should have picked it up when they mowed. This is a whole different issue first I don't understand how he was tresspassing if it was posted on the outside of the school as schools are public grounds. Don't we as taxpayers pay for the school and second of all the pushment is way out of line. It sound to me like she has no respect from the kids in the school and she knows it and is using this as a threat to gain control before she looses her job. Had a princpal just like that and he tried to tell seniors they would not graduate if they pulled senior pranks and he just got laughed at and the school board here stood behind the parents and the kids. You parents need to stand up for your kids . And James T I don't know how old you are or care how old you are but my grandparents would be in their late 90's if still alive and my grandfather asked my grandmother to marry him by writing it on a water tower so don't say older people would not have done that. Good luck Mr. Tate
Dina May 13, 2011 at 11:05 PM
I applaud Dr. Smith for her resolve. If more educators were like her the world would be a better place. You can point to liberal attitudes like Tom Thordarson's as the reason today's kids are so screwed up.
Tom Thordarson May 13, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Dina... If you call my suggestion to choose being a role model that INSPIRES and gains the respect of students by being passionate about learning and the educational leaders role over barking out rules like a dictator..then it is definitely not ME screwing up the minds of anyone at all...and more clearly those like you..who lack heart, real intellect and the ability to recognbize why 99% of all here FAR outweigh your opinion! I feel my case is well stated and rest it in full pride for my insight and the majority I am in company with. Peace to you though...I hope you one day find some color in your mind and heart.
charles warren May 14, 2011 at 12:08 AM
move the whole damn prom to a diffrent location.and remove all school authority maybe a local sports arena.they the school could prom alone for a change and show those jerks whose boss.they are just adiministrators not the last word and don't let them have it
School Administrator May 14, 2011 at 12:50 AM
Mr. Guerino's experience as a teacher doesn't make him a better judge of the headmaster's actions, and so I don't see how his interview is relevant. Backbone is good when it gives someone the fortitude to stand by a sound decision, which this is not. A few thoughts: 1. Is Dr. Smith so entrenched in her own thinking that she can't back off? 2. To those who say that James knew the rules, I counter by saying that he didn't know that what he did would be considered a breach of school rules. If someone can show me the rule he broke, I will admit to being wrong. Is there a rule about suspension for trespassing on school grounds after school hours? Is there a rule about erecting removable signs? We all know the answer to both questions is no. Therefore, what James did was an offense because the headmaster decided it is an offense. We grant headmasters authority, but not absolute authority. 3. The superintendent needs to show some character by either speaking firmly in support of the headmaster or by saying that he cannot support her. 4. The "April 1" rule is crazy. Do you mean that if James had done the exact same thing on March 31, he would be attending the prom? How does this make sense? 5. Dr. Smith is doing much to embarrass both her school and herself. To date, she has offered only broad generalizations and "it is our policy" as the reasons for her decision. Surely she can explain her actions better than that. Or can she?
dc May 14, 2011 at 12:50 AM
No one did get hurt and it was after the fact that the punishment was delt out. Ms Rachet, make a rule for the future and geton with things. Now it is to late for the kids to truely enjoy it. Really a shame.
charles warren May 14, 2011 at 02:09 AM
no its not! move the prom to a convetion center or local sports arena. let the kids all of them the whole school have their prom. adult supervision parents no school officals allowed maybe the teachers. but those in the authority banned from the activity. then it would be a absolute back fire.it's not to late the prom is in june
Faith B May 14, 2011 at 06:01 PM
I agree with several individuals that the headmasters response was a missed opportunity to do the right thing. While Mr Tate should have suffered a consequence for his poorly thought out actions, "let the punishment fit the crime". Had a more moderate consequence been selected (ie NOT banning this student from the prom), the desired outcome would have been achieved on all fronts and it would not have created the media frenzy that ensued. Now the headmaster has been forced into the unenviable position of having to recant her decision, creating the impression that if you protest enough and get many others to protest on your behalf, you can escape consequences. This is definitely NOT the message that parents,teachers and even other students want to hear. By being more reasonable about the punishment for this misdeed (misguided as it was) the message would be :"this will not be tolerated without some kind of consequence" reinforcing the authority of the school administration in these matters. I think Mr Tate should also be required to make a public apology and give a short talk to fellow students about the dangers of his actions and what alternative behavior he could have chosen to create a novel prom invitation to his friend.
Paul May 14, 2011 at 08:18 PM
I have taught high school for over forty years and have seen it all! While Tate may have overstepped his bounds in his message approach, this is just one more example of inflexible, hard ass administrators (I've seen lots of those, too) that gloat on their power. Severely damaging the property would surely deserve some kind of punishment, but a removable cardboard sign that does not deface the building is a very minor infraction that could have been dealt with by assigning an appropriate "punishment". Inflexible administrative decisions such as this do nothing more than foster resentment on the part of our young people.
Faith May 14, 2011 at 08:38 PM
I know! They make it sound like he would be missing the birth of his first child! I am so sick of these foul mouthed,smart assed punky kids who feel that they are owed everything in life and woe is me if they don't get what they demand. Fallen and broken his leg? How about his damn neck! Suppose he fell and was left paralyzed. "Says" he wore a helmet.............. like I believe that! He violated school policy,he trespassed,and he got away with it.Now let's see how many more are going to try this. My biggest regret is that Shelton police did not catch him in his act and arrested him and his Twatty friends right on the spot. Bet THAT would make the front page of the paper!!!!!!!!!!!!
Keith Hudak May 14, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Doctor Smith from LOST IN SPACE was a baffoon too. When you mention "unpopular decisions," was going in public with that hairdo one of them?
Faith May 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Just stop! So you don't like her hair style. So what. Maybe you are bald.
Tom Thordarson May 15, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Thanks for that paul!! I stated the same... As a former teacher who get;s letters from my students who I taught a decade ago that recall the spirit of what I taught them that has inspired their careers and lives...and a supporter and wittensss of what true leadership means. Inspire, show compasssion..show PASSION as example and the ability to have common sense in all we stand for or defend. If I don't hear James is aloud to go to that Prom....there was nothing short of injustuce carried out here. I have a lot of faith in our youth...and believe in new thinking as what will fuel their success...not some inflexible "rule book" that any idiot enforce like a monkey getting a banana when they push a button every time a light goes on. KUDOS Paul!
Stupidity Abounds May 15, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Guerino, Caryl, Mary Grant, & Dr Smith I totally agree. You are EXACTLY what's wrong with schools and yes, plz stay away from children. You are getting apid by the community in which you serve without compassion or a grain of common sense. No creativity, no joy, no lessons to teach the youth to become better citizens just rigidity for the sake of rigidity. I also work in the schools as a sub. I go on for one day, smile & listen to a child, give them high five, make story time interesting, smile, tell jokes, reprimand with love and the next time the kids see me in the building, I get nothing but love and enthusiasm. I happen to be a mom of 4 who has a sixth sense and treats all children like I would want my own treated while in someone else's care. Your lack of common sense turns my stomach!
Tom Thordarson May 15, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Just heard on news here in L.A, California the GREAT news!!! YOU James are GOING to the PROM!! It makes my heart soar that there is justice after all... Bless you and have a magical, memorable prom James!! You had a lot of heart behind you! Freedom of speach and spirit is what founded this Country..let's pray it gets back on that track for our future American leaders!! Though a small symbol here...it sure makes me smile! There is no comment a nay sayer can make here any more...that has valdidity. You WON buddy...and just by being a a darn good guy and a truly creative original soul!
stephen posser May 15, 2011 at 05:05 PM
To Mr Guerino so said there was a lawsuit when a student running in GYM CLASS and he slipped and fell on some glass. Well as I remember from Gym class running was part of the curriculum and the school failed to keep grounds clean(from the glass and your narrow mind). The school deserved it. And those who use terms like liberal as excuses for problem kids are so out of tune with reality. This kid did absolutely nothing wrong except to show that the human race is not hopeless. Thank God the adminstration decided to allow James to go to the Prom. But what choice did they have-otherwise they would look more like jackasses than they already do.
Faith May 15, 2011 at 08:07 PM
I have noticed that when males feel threatened by a woman who,obviously makes more money than they do, or are more intelligent or hold a higher degree,they resort to ridiculing her looks or spreading rumors that perhaps she is "one of the boys". How sad is that! The woman is headmistress of a school which has 1600 students. SIXTEEN HUNDRED snot nosed, know- it- all "entitled"little punks who will try to get away with anything they possibly can and never face the music. No responsibility here! And Mom and Dad don't have the backbones to stand up to their little darlings and they let their little angels walk all over them,and ,why NOT?! These are children of the "entitled generation" to whom everything is owed.!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you even IMAGINE what it is going to be like in 50 years from now? Wah,wah,wah! I can't go to the prom because the mean principle said so. I'll just notify the news media and blow this episode out of proportion,and,get away with it! I sincerely hope that Dr Smith finds a much better paying job and leaves without giving much notice. She deserves better than this. The woman was following rules which have been in place for years." Mr " Twate ( oh, you want me to treat him as an adult?) trespassed on school grounds at 1 am, bypassing the LOCKED GATE,climbing a ladder in the dark( says he wore a helmet but I doubt that very much) stuck a ridiculous bunch of letters on a school leaving his NAME.Romantic? No. Stupid~ YES! This is our future????????
Faith May 15, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Now, that is an "intelligent" post if I ever read one. Move the prom to a different location (how about a sports bar?:) ,prom alone ( drugs and alcohol and maybe some hookers too) and show the adults just who the "bosses" are. WOW! So,you obviously feel that the world should be run by 17,18 year old kids! That is interesting! Most of you won't even volunteer to serve your country for 3-4 years,most of you feel that your parents were placed on this earth to cater to your every whim ,provide you with a car and a free college education and never ask a dime from you. And, then,you move back in with them after you graduate and suck off them for the remainder of their lives. NICE!
Paul May 16, 2011 at 01:00 AM
@Faith: First, I would ask if you have ever been a teacher in either a private or public school? To make sweeping statement as you have above, i.e., "SIXTEEN HUNDRED snot nosed, know-it-all 'entitled' little punks etc..." is not unlike any school administrator who makes the same sweeping disciplinary punishment for ALL and ANY school infraction. Please don't judge our young people of today based on hearsay. Perhaps you should spend some time in a teacher's shoes for a few days to see that not ALL teens are "snot nosed" as you presume. I have taught high school kids for over forty years...are there some snot nosed kids? sure! Are there some punks? sure! Entitled kids? sure! Helicopter parents? you bet! But, please don't judge every single young person, or sixteen hundred for that matter, based on your own prejudice. BTW, the Oxford dictionary defines prejudice as: noun; preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience

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