ONTD Political

Principal Punishes High School Boys With Public Hand-Holding

An Arizona school district has condemned the in-school discipline at one of its high schools after two boys were forced to hold hands in front of their classmates as a punishment for fighting.

Earlier this week, the two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., who have not been named, were faced with the prospect of either suspension from school, or sitting in chairs in the high school’s courtyard and holding hands for 15 minutes during a lunch period. They opted for the latter.

“Kids were laughing at them and calling them names, asking, ‘Are you gay?’” student Brittney Smyers told ABC affiliate KNXV.

Teens at the high school inevitably posted photos of the two, who spent the time shielding their faces with their heads in their hands, to social media sites.

On the Facebook posting, users commented that the public punishment is not appropriate, as it positions the teens as targets for taunting and name-calling. Others suggested 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, told ABCNews.com that the school’s principal, Tim Richard, who is in his first year at Westwood, had the idea.

“He’s done some great things there,” she said. “He’s focused highly on maintaining a standard where [ideally] no students are failing a class.”

Calls placed to Richard by ABC News were not returned.

Once the school district got wind of Richard’s unique punishment, it issued a statement saying 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 statement said.

“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 aware that many perceived the discipline as bullying and biased.

“The district is looking at how the actions have been perceived,” she said. “That’s a very important piece to know.”

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/11/principal-punishes-high-school-boys-with-public-hand-holding/

OP Says: The source has a picture of the boys, taken by one of their classmates. That's about all I can add without exploding into a ball of rage. On an unrelated note: has the format been changed for anybody else, or is it just me?
jettakd 2nd-Dec-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
See I originally thought this was a great punishment, but then I heard about the bullying :( They should have made them go to the school counselor and not publicly humiliate them.
otana 2nd-Dec-2012 04:28 am (UTC)
Not when it marginalizes gays by reinforcing to the kids that two boys holding hands is a bad thing.
koshkabegemot 2nd-Dec-2012 06:15 am (UTC)
This.
zemi_chan 2nd-Dec-2012 10:34 am (UTC)
IA.
jettakd 2nd-Dec-2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I realize that now, but I honestly didn't think of that. I thought it was just forcing them to spend time together, and optimistically didn't think of the other meaning or the consequences thereof.
just_shai 2nd-Dec-2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
I had a coworker who had her kids hold hands when they were fighting. But it was in their living room, no audience, and meant to enforce that siblings were not supposed to do violence upon one another.
carmy_w 3rd-Dec-2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
My husband made his kids stand in the corner & hug each other! (they were about 4 & 8 at the time)
redstar826 2nd-Dec-2012 03:43 am (UTC)
Others suggested the punishment was anti-gay, as it implies two males holding hands is embarrassing.

that's how I'm reading this
moonshaz 2nd-Dec-2012 03:47 am (UTC)
BINGO!!
anaralia 2nd-Dec-2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Yeah that was the point right? That there's something shameful about two boys holding hands and that it's humiliating to be caught doing it in public.
zinnia_rose 2nd-Dec-2012 04:50 am (UTC)
MTE. I thought that was what the teacher was going for.
romp 2nd-Dec-2012 04:02 am (UTC)
That was driven home by the photo at the source. Powerful.
sandstorm 2nd-Dec-2012 04:30 am (UTC)
This is what I was thinking.
koshkabegemot 2nd-Dec-2012 06:15 am (UTC)
You're not the only one.
anolinde 2nd-Dec-2012 07:20 am (UTC)
I read it as more as "we were stupid for fighting, now we have to hold hands with each other (i.e. someone we can't stand)." Like, if this punishment is being used for girl fights or girl/guy fights, then it seems more of a "learn to work together" thing than a "male/male contact is bad" thing.

But it's late and I'm probably just rambling, lol.
lizzy_someone 2nd-Dec-2012 09:00 am (UTC)
I personally doubt that the principal would have given this punishment to two girls, and even if he would have, I really doubt that girls would have received nearly as much bullying as the boys did. And if it was just a "shake hands and make up" thing, they can do that in the principal's office or whatever; there's no need to make them do it in front of all their classmates. This has "using anti-gay bullying as disciplinary measure" written all over it. (I've also heard of fathers making their sons publicly wear women's clothing as a punishment, so it's not like this sort of thing is unheard of.)
pleasure_past 2nd-Dec-2012 09:20 am (UTC)
See, I was almost willing to believe that myself, since my mother used a similar punishment on my little brother and I when we were young, but the fact that they were forced to do it publicly indicates to me that that wasn't the idea. I think this was definitely supposed to be about humiliation, and if it wasn't, why the fuck wasn't the principle stopping all of the kids who bullied the two boys and making them join in on the hand-holding?
redstar826 2nd-Dec-2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
I find it hard to believe that the school would have no idea that this would result in anti-gay bullying
jettakd 2nd-Dec-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
This is how I originally read it, but yeah I'm doubting that now.
amyura 2nd-Dec-2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Exactly.
ameliorate 2nd-Dec-2012 03:57 am (UTC)
That's how we were punished as kids when we physically fought each other.
romp 2nd-Dec-2012 04:04 am (UTC)
was it seen as shaming or forced time together? I'm guessing shaming because they otherwise could have been study partners or something not public and physical
ladypolitik 2nd-Dec-2012 04:38 am (UTC)
Exploitive on so many up levels; wow.
morningapproach 2nd-Dec-2012 04:59 am (UTC)
I feel like I heard about this school before in the news....
urplesquirrel 2nd-Dec-2012 05:29 am (UTC)
I initially thought "Oh, what a cute way to resolve a fight!" Make them do something friendly for a short period of time. After all, holding hands is a friendly gesture, maybe it'll make them feel warmer towards each other.

Then I read about them being mocked by their classmates for it, and apparently being mocked is supposed to be the actual punishment? Fuck you all.

(I still think this would work really well for elementary school students, though.)
tilmon 2nd-Dec-2012 05:43 am (UTC)
I thought the same thing, that this was probably a good way to make them sit down and have to talk to each other. But if there was no adult monitoring what went on other than to make sure they kept holding hands, then this was a bad idea.
anolinde 2nd-Dec-2012 07:21 am (UTC)
This pretty much sums up my feelings. And I would assume that they had someone monitoring them?
unbridledglee 2nd-Dec-2012 06:02 am (UTC)
That photo, ugh. It's all about horrible humiliation. They are placed on two chairs in the middle of a group of kids? Who the hell would think that's a good idea? I'm surprised no one tried to shove them or push them off the chairs/rip their hands apart. Kids get nasty. (but this is obviously the principal's fault)
kitanabychoice 2nd-Dec-2012 06:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, when I first saw this too I thought it was an appropriate punishment to make them hold hands after fighting, but the public mockery is too much. :/
terra_tenshi 2nd-Dec-2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
Anti-gay adoption laws, anti-gay marriage, and now this. It seems like I grow more ashamed of my home state every year.
wickedwhich 2nd-Dec-2012 06:48 am (UTC)
Non-consensual physical contact isn't an appropriate punishment, no matter what. This was clearly meant to shame them. I can't imagine how anyone could think otherwise.
fragbert 2nd-Dec-2012 01:56 pm (UTC)
Non-consensual physical contact isn't an appropriate punishment, no matter what.

Bingo! You got it in one.
quixotic_coffee 2nd-Dec-2012 07:53 am (UTC)
Seems pretty anti gay to me. In addition to that public shaming is not the way to punish someone. Is it so hard to get kids to understand why fighting is wrong? The people pointing and laughing should be punished too, imo (and realistically maybe I wouldn't advocate for that, but their actions are wrong too).
jimmyblue 2nd-Dec-2012 08:09 am (UTC)
I don't really know if the punishment itself is anti-gay, since to me it seems more reminiscent of asking kindergartners to hug each other after a fight. The bullying by the students definitely should have been curtailed, though.
angelachibayuy 9th-Dec-2012 01:58 pm (UTC)
That's how I read it when I first saw it and still do. Especially since the initial reports I saw said the students were given a choice, this or suspension for a couple of days.

It's bad that it would inevitably result in bullying but even having two members of the opposite sex hold hands in public would be embarrassing if the two hated each other.
lizzy_someone 2nd-Dec-2012 09:17 am (UTC)
Whatever you think the principal's motivations were, it is a cold hard fact that we live in a world where two men (or women, but especially men) holding hands in public are sometimes met with slurs, objects thrown at them, or more traditional and serious assault. I know a woman who had a bottle thrown at her for being gay and holding hands in public; I've read of men who were murdered with tire irons when walking down the street hand in hand with their boyfriends. This principal lives in that world, and evidently works at a school with plenty of homophobes in it. Either he is dumb as shit and wildly unaware of the world around him, in which case he might not be a bad person but he probably should not be a professional educator, or he is a homophobe and child abuser who knew full well that his punishment stigmatizes queer people and would subject his students to bullying, in which case he is a really shitty person and should definitely not be an educator. Jesus christ, man, it's not like there's been a RECENT HIGHLY PUBLICIZED STRING OF TEEN SUICIDES ATTRIBUTED TO ANTI-GAY BULLYING OR ANYTHING.
zemi_chan 2nd-Dec-2012 10:33 am (UTC)
All. Of. This.
otana 2nd-Dec-2012 11:46 am (UTC)
Thank you, this is very well put.
freuen 3rd-Dec-2012 02:31 pm (UTC)
I really don't want to start shit, but I would bet actual money that this principal knows that gay bullying exists and that he was contributing to it.

Mesa is a heavily LDS and conservative/Republican city and there is no way that the principal didn't know that. If he was at all concerned with the well-being of these students, he would have found a punishment that did not involve baiting the prejudices of a good number of the citizens of Mesa.
the_physicist 2nd-Dec-2012 09:52 am (UTC)
Whatever the original intention of the principle with that punishment might have been, by letting the other kids get away with mocking them "for being gay" etc, all the bullying... >_> it's hard to imagine he really sees those issues as a problem. I also see the forced physical contact as a problem, but I also know that might be a cultural thing, so maybe in the context of that school and all the pupils going to it it's not the problem I think it is *shrug* .
zemi_chan 2nd-Dec-2012 10:32 am (UTC)
Others suggested the punishment was anti-gay, as it implies two males holding hands is embarrassing.

I don't see how it doesn't freaking imply this. The fact that one of the students in the source video mentioned that hand-holding is also a punishment that students receive in ROTC simply reinforces my view, tbh.

whorishness 2nd-Dec-2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
For what reason, other than "appearing gay", would hand-holding be considered embarrassing? What punishment do they get from hand holding? What does hand holding signify in today's society?
zemi_chan 2nd-Dec-2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
If you're not asking those questions rhetorically, I want to apologize for my poor, late-night typing and rephrase my first sentence. lol

"I don't see how anyone could view this punishment as anything but anti-gay/homophobic, because outside of a homophobic mindset, there is nothing shameful or embarrassing about two men holding hands."

Sorry for the confusion!
whorishness 2nd-Dec-2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
Deleted comment was by me and off topic and ranty.
d00ditsemily 2nd-Dec-2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
When my husband was in Afghanistan an NCO would make lower enlisted sit in trash cans, put their nose in the wall, hold hands with other people etc. as punishment for just annoying him. It's really disgusting what people do when they have power.
freuen 2nd-Dec-2012 03:25 pm (UTC)
To make matters worse, this principal was part of an anti-bullying summit in October. He spoke about "Effective School Anti-Bullying Policies and Procedures". =/

www.stopbullyingaz.org/docs/Program.pdf
meran_flash 3rd-Dec-2012 03:46 am (UTC)
Fucking shocked at everyone here failing to understand that this is fucking homophobia.
freuen 3rd-Dec-2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
Here in _p or here in Arizona? Either way, I agree. I've lost count of the number of people that I've had to explain this situation to in RL. Apparently people in the PHX metro area by and large don't understand what homophobia is.
fm_gatekeeper 5th-Dec-2012 05:14 pm (UTC)
Throwing whether or not it's anti-gay completely aside (because I think it is but I don't really feel like debating the point), when is forced physical contact with someone ever an appropriate punishment for anything?

No, seriously, when?

I know it's just holding hands. I understand that. But... I don't know. This rubs me the wrong way. Hugging as punishment, as someone else mentioned up-thread, even more so. Even if you're siblings/friends/whatever.
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