Two Arizona high school students were forced to hold hands in front of their classmates as punishment this week for fighting. Now that punishment is drawing criticism. The students at Westwood High in Mesa were apparently given the option to hold hands instead of being suspended.
"Kids were laughing at them and calling them names asking, 'Are you gay?'" said student Brittney Smyers, who saw the punishment play out at the school earlier this week. It was funny," said student Mickey Shull. Most students at the school thought the punishment was better than getting suspended. They acknowledged it was humiliating, but thought it would teach them a lesson.
A picture of the teenagers hiding their faces was posted to Facebook where several comments criticized the punishment saying it was inappropriate. One person commented, saying it encourages bullying because the kids were targeted for taunting and name-calling. A few others went as far as to say it sent a negative message to gay students because it portrayed hand-holding by two males to be embarrassing. A Mesa Public School District representative issued the following statement regarding the punishment:
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.