Controversy has engulfed a high school in Arizona as two students were punished for fighting by being forced to hold hands for an hour in the middle of the campus.
Freshman Charles Crockett, 14, and a sophomore known only as Julio got into a scuffle in P.E. class at Westwood High, Mesa, on Wednesday. School principal Tim Richards gave the boys a simple choice – be suspended or face some public humiliation.
Both students chose the less serious but more embarrassing option and sat with locked palms for over an hour in front of all their class-mates. The principal’s actions are now facing criticism.
Westwood student Brittney Smyers, who witnessed the incident, told ABC News: ‘Kids were laughing at them and calling them names asking, “Are you gay?”‘
Another pupil, Mickey Shull, said: ‘I’ve been in ROTC and it’s no different than some of the stuff you have to do there. It works.’
The image of the boys holding hands and covering their faces was instantly passed around on Facebook, increasing the students’ embarrassment.
Crockett admitted skipping school on Thursday, as he was being teased so much about the punishment. But when CBS5 asked what he had learnt from the episode the student replied: ‘Don’t fight in school.’
There has been plenty of criticism over the punishment. Several Facebook users described the tactic as ‘inappropriate’.
Another commenter felt the incident encouraged bullying as the boys were targeted for name-calling as a result of the punishment.
Some maintained that the case sent a negative message to gay students, as it suggests that boys holding hands is a shameful act.
Principal Richards was appointed at Westwood High earlier this year and has ambitious plans to turn around a school that has suffered declining grades in recent years.
But not everyone agrees with his methods so far.
The Mesa Public School District representative has issued a statement in regards to this case:
‘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.’
Paul Hudson | Elite.