After a freshmen and sophomore got into a physical altercation during class, Principal Tim Richards gave the students their choice of punishment: suspension or public humiliation–by making the students hold hands while sitting next to each other in the school courtyard.
The teens chose humiliation. Clasping hands, they hung their heads as students looking on jeered and taunted because they, reportedly, found the display funny.
Britteny Smyers, a student, told ABC 15 news: “Kids were laughing at them and calling them names asking, ‘Are you gay?’”
Photos of the students holding hands began circulating the Internet, with some calling the punishment effective. According to KPHO news, Charles Crockett, 14, one of the boys involved, said he wouldn’t fight again anytime soon. However, after the hour-long punishment, Crockett admits he skipped school the next day due to incessant teasing.
Others argue the punishment promotes bullying, by allowing students to publicly taunt the teens. Meanwhile, some say it sends a negative message about being gay by insinuating that two men holding hands is an embarrassment.
KPHO news reports, the neighborhood stands behind Principal Richard’s actions. A sign spotted near the school read: “Westwood neighborhood supports Principal Richard.” But school district officials feel otherwise.
District officials released the following statement:
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.