An Arizona school district has condemned one of its high schools for disciplining two boys for fighting ... by forcing them to hold hands in front of their classmates as punishment.
Earlier this week, the two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., who have not been named, were faced with two options after getting into a fight:
- Suspension from school
- Sitting in chairs in the courtyard and holding hands for 15 minutes during lunch
They opted for the latter, and were ridiculed by their peers.
“Kids were laughing at them and calling them names, asking, ‘Are you gay?’” student Brittney Smyers told ABC affiliate KNXV, while photos began to circulate online.
On one Facebook posting, users commented that the public punishment was not appropriate, as it positions the teens as targets for taunting and name-calling.
Others said the punishment was anti-gay, as it implies two males holding hands is embarrassing.
Helen Hollands, director of communication and marketing for Mesa Public Schools, said the school’s principal, Tim Richard, who is in his first year at Westwood, had the idea.
“He’s done some great things there,” Hollands said. “He’s focused highly on maintaining a standard where [ideally] no students are failing a class.”
Once the school district got wind of Richard’s unique punishment, however, it issued a statement saying that it doesn’t condone what the school did:
“Mesa Public Schools is dedicated to maintaining a safe and supportive learning environment."
"The district has guidelines for appropriate student discipline and our site administrators have the authority to impose consequences within our policies and regulations.”
“The district does not condone the choice of in-school discipline given these students, regardless of their acceptance or willingness to participate."
"District leadership will address this matter with the school principal and review district protocol regarding student discipline with all administrators.”
Hollands said that the district is well aware that many perceived the discipline as bullying and biased.
“The district is looking at how the actions have been perceived,” she said of the now infamous and viral incident. “That’s a very important piece to know.”
Disciplining kids with hand-holding: Right or wrong?