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The GEM Debate: Are Today’s Schools Too Strict?

James Tate and Sonali Rodrigues

Over the weekend I was perusing Lisa Belkin’s parenting blog in the New York Times  and saw a couple of interesting stories that I thought would make great GEM Debate material…

You’ve probably heard about James Tate, the Connecticut high schooler who, in an effort to get Sonali Rodrigues to say yes to his prom invite, devised a rather creative plan. Tate and two friends snuck onto school grounds, after hours, and carefully laid out painted, cardboard letters that spelled out, “Sonali Rodrigues, will you go to the prom with me? HMU-Tate.”

Clever, I thought and it certainly beat the hell out of the guy who asked me to prom in the lunch line, as he was deciding between fries and tater tots. Sonali said yes, but school officials put the hammer down, suspending James and forbidding him from going to the prom for trespassing. His story became a cause celebre online, with Twitter hashtags and Facebook fan pages brimming with support. And now the school has backtracked

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But honestly as ridiculous as that one was, it pales in comparison to this second story. Anthony Nichols of Ohio, was suspended from the school bus he rides for, get this, synchronized farting. Yeah, that’s what I said. Anthony and another 7th grader had been warned before but it was apparently not enough to keep them from their favorite pastime of “Fun with Flatulence.” Needless to say, Anthony’s mother is pretty pissed and fired off a letter to a local paper, talking about her son’s hospitalization for his “gastrointestinal issues” and alluding to possible legal action against the district.

Okay here’s my Good Enough Mother take on both of these stories: SERIOUSLY? Since when was “lacking a sense of humor” the number one job requirement in order to work with kids? These two boys are going to be very, very successful in life. One will probably continue thinking outside the box so much he’ll find a cure for cancer. The other will probably win America’s Got Talent and become a gazillionaire through the launch of his own charcoal lined underpants that muffle sound and smell.

The bigger question here though is WHY? Doesn’t this feel a bit like killing a fly with a cannon? Yes, I’m sure there are liability issues for the Connecticut school but you mean to tell me there wasn’t another way to punish James? And the school bus farting?? Don’t even get me started.

That’s my take; I’m dying to hear yours. Are schools today getting too strict – or are they not strict enough?

Is there any good reason for school officials to have acted this way in either of these cases? What would have been a more appropriate punishment?  Has this ever happened to you or someone you know? Okay, fire away (no pun intended).


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