staff and news service reports
updated 5/14/2011 5:31:37 PM ET 2011-05-14T21:31:37

James Tate's romantic prom proposal won't keep him from going after all.

Shelton, Conn., school officials called a surprise news conference Saturday to announce that the decision to ban Tate from his senior prom had been reversed, according to WVIT.

They acknowledged the "international notoriety" the case had brought.

Tate had been suspended and subsequently banned from the prom because of the way he asked his classmate Sonali Rodrigues to be his date, the station's website reported.

The Shelton High School senior and two of his friends snuck onto school grounds late at night last week to post 12-inch-tall letters to a wall outside of the school's entrance. The message read: "Sonali Rodrigues, Will you go to the prom with me? HMU -Tate." HMU is short for hit me up, or call me.

Rodrigues said yes, but then, to Tate's surprise, school officials said no: Tate and his two friends were handed one-day, in-house suspensions by the headmaster. School policy is to ban from the prom any student suspended after April 1.

Shelton High headmaster Beth Smith had been standing firm all week in her decision to ban Tate, which went according to school rules, despite the media buzz and outcry that spread across the country.

Nearly 200,000 people came out in support of Tate on Facebook and Twitter, saying the school punishment was too harsh.

Smith, the headmaster, had said Thursday the practice of banning students who were suspended after April 1 has been standard for "many years."

On Saturday, Smith issued a statement saying she never thought her decision to ban Tate from the prom "would lead to international notoriety, as I make tough, unpopular decisions on a daily basis."

She said changing the policy to allow alternate consequences on a case-by-case basis would allow some students, beginning with Tate, to attend the prom.

"This decision will allow Shelton High School to focus our classroom discussions on established curriculum and continue to encourage students to develop to their full potential," she said.

She cited a "much more exciting opportunity when our students make history, as a science experiment completed by SHS students is currently on the space shuttle Endeavour," scheduled for launch Monday.

Story: NASA clears Endeavour for Monday flight

Smith, staff members, students involved in the experiment and parents went to see Endeavour's originally scheduled launch two weeks ago in Florida, she said.

Earlier, Tate told TODAY's Matt Lauer he was shocked at the punishment.

"I thought they would appreciate my sincerity and creativity," Tate said on TODAY. "I thought maybe a reprimand — clean it up — which I was willing to do, and I ended up doing on Sunday night, but instead, there's an investigation."

Tate told The Connecticut Post that he was told posting the message constituted trespassing and posed a safety risk.

Rodrigues, also interviewed on TODAY, told Lauer that she appreciated Tate's gesture.

Vote: Should teen be banned from prom for big sign?

"I thought it was really sweet. I never thought he would get in trouble, so when he actually told me he was suspended, I thought he was joking."

As news of the ban spread, so too did the outrage. Tate's posting on his school's wall has led to hundreds of posts on a different type of wall. Friends have set up a Facebook page urging school officials to reconsider, where thousands are appealing on his behalf. On Twitter, streams of users are unfurling their 140 character messages of support using the hashtag #teamtate.

Story: Prom ban prompts upset calls to Shelton High School

Public officials spoke out.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy weighed in. "While it seems that there are rules that were broken, in this case, it doesn’t seem as though the punishment fits the crime," he said in a statement.

And Republican State Legislator Jason Perillo also took Tate's side. He had been drafting legislation that would let the senior go to prom, letting students suspended late in the year perform community service instead of missing the big dance.

© 2013

Video: Online supporters keep up prom night fight

  1. Transcript of: Online supporters keep up prom night fight

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Well, if you're a guy, you know asking a girl to the prom is tough, always has been. And this week, when Connecticut teenager decided to make a big splash with his invitation, it backfired big time . Some found it romantic; his school did not. Now the Web is on fire with this story. He has supporters all over the globe, and the principal says rules is rules. Our report from NBC 's Mara Schiavocampo .

    MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO reporting: It all started with the writing on the wall . Late last week, in the dead of night, Shelton High School senior James Tate and two friends dragged a ladder and 12-inch cardboard letters to campus, taping this message onto a school

    wall: " Sonali Rodrigues , will you go to prom with me?"

    Mr. JAMES TATE: I figured I'd do something special and do it big.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: Rodrigues , a classmate and friend, said yes, but school officials said no, suspending Tate and his friends for trespassing and banning him from the June 4th prom. As news spread, so did the outrage.

    Unidentified Woman: I think it's kind of ridiculous.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: And it went viral. Supporters gathered online, enchanted by the romance of it all, thousands twitting words of encouragement. The Let James Tate Go to the Prom Facebook page has nearly 180,000 fans.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: The town's mayor says he's been inundated with e-mails from far beyond Connecticut ...

    Mr. MARK A. LAURETTI (Shelton, Connecticut, Mayor): China, Japan, Australia.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: ...every last one supporting Tate .

    Mr. LAURETTI: It doesn't make sense. There has to be some common sense.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: But not everyone has been swayed. Thursday the school's

    headmaster made one thing clear: Rules are rules.

    Ms. BETH SMITH (Shelton High School Headmaster): Students receiving an in-school or out-of-school suspension after April 1st , for any reason, would not be allowed to attend the prom.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: So while Tate 's sorry for his message on this wall...

    Mr. TATE: I'm sorry, it won't happen again, for me, and I'd like to go to prom very much with her.

    SCHIAVOCAMPO: supporters vow to keep up the fight on this one. Mara Schiavocampo, NBC News, Shelton, Connecticut .

Vote: Should teen be banned from prom for big sign?