A high school principal in Mesa, Ariz., wanted to stop two students from throwing punches, so he made them hold hands instead. Well, kind of.
Timothy Richard gave the Westwood High School students a choice of punishment after they were caught fighting in P.E. class last Wednesday. The teens had two options: suspension or handholding.
They chose the latter and spent the lunch period locking palms in the school’s courtyard. They covered their faces as part of the student body gathered around them.
“They was making fun of me … and I just wanted to yell at them, but I couldn’t,” Charles Crockett, one of the students involved, told KPHO. “I just put my head down.”
Although the punishment only lasted an hour, it caused debates that resonated long after the lunch bell rang.
“It was public humiliation. It wasn’t even right,” Jasmine Stykes, a Westwood student told USA TODAY. “People kill themselves over this stuff.”
Westwood High School students hold hands during a demonstration at the school showing support of the school’s principal, Monday, Dec. 3 in Mesa, Ariz. Students held hands and walked through the Westwood High school campus in Mesa to show support for the school’s principal after he was criticized for punishment handed down to two students.
She said people made fun of the students by calling them gay and taking pictures to post on social media networks. As the photos started popping up on Twitter and Facebook, reactions about the principal’s disciplinary practice ensued.
The board released a statement that it did not condone the in-school discipline given to the students, according to USA TODAY.
But the discussion didn’t stop there — it surged beyond the school’s campus and into the college setting. Northwestern University’s Lane Fenrich shared an article on the topic with his “Sexuality Studies” class.
Alma Gallegos, a senior enrolled in the class, said the incident was an example of bullying that targeted a psychologically vulnerable age group. She argued that these types of lessons might reinforce homophobic attitudes already prevalent in society.
“Even if those students holding hands themselves did not identify as homosexuals, the message of ridicule for those who do identify with that orientation made me very mad,” the 21-year-old said.
Gregor Schmidinger, a senior at the University of California – Los Angeles and a director of the short film Homophobia, called the approach draconian.
“What’s wrong with the educational and governmental system that someone like Richard gets to be responsible for the development of children and teenagers, that the director of communication of marketing justifies his behavior and that the district does not condone his choice?” the 27-year-old said. “We should ask these questions as loudly and as often as possible.”
But at least 200 people disagree with Gallegos and Schmidinger. Westwood students and parents participated in a “hand-holding event” Monday in support of the principal. Some demonstrators described the punishment as necessary and creative.
That could be what lead Westwood sophomore Rilee Webb to write and upload a YouTube video of “Take My Hand,” a song that portrays the occurrence in a positive light.
Despite the negative coverage, and possibly because of the community’s reaction, the district administration decided Richard would keep his job. After reviewing the case, the district administration said the school would continue its mission of student learning and achievement under his leadership.
The principal concluded his sentiments in this statement:
“My hope is that the recent events do not take our eye off the prize — academic success for every Westwood Warrior,” he wrote.
Powered by Facebook Comments