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Arizona

Male students forced to hold hands as punishment criticized as bullying

Friday, November 30, 2012

MESA, Ariz. — Two Arizona high school students were forced to hold hands in front of their classmates as punishment this week for fighting.

Critics are calling the discipline a form of bullying because it subjected the students to taunting and name-calling, and evoked anti-gay sentiments.

Image via: KNXV-TV

Earlier this week, the two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., who have not been named, were given 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, reported KNXV-TV.

But the school district said it does not condone the “unique punishment” handed down by principal Tim Richard, and is aware that many perceived the discipline as bullying and biased, according to Helen Hollands, Director of Communication for Mesa Public Schools.

“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.

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.

“The district has guidelines for appropriate student discipline and our site administrators have the authority to impose consequences within our policies and regulations,” according to a statement released by the school district.

“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,” the statement said.

A photo of the students hiding their faces as they clutched hands was posted to Facebook, where several comments criticized the punishment saying it was inappropriate.

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

“I would say this will not be happening again,” added Hollands.

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47 more reader comments:

  1. This is intended to make them appear gay. It is highly offensive.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:17pm
  2. :/ wow… that’s pathetic.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:19pm
  3. wow really that is fucked up

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:20pm
  4. I agree with the gentlemen above. I don’t condone anyone of any orientation being made fun of-and this humiliation just makes it worst. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:23pm
  5. This pisses me off! That principal needs to be fired! I’m all for same-sex hand holding if it’s consensual, but to do it as a punishment so others can laugh and finger point is ridiculous and homophobic!

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:23pm
  6. Fuck all these school districts man. All they do is fucking discriminate against LGBT people.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:25pm
  7. just no.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:29pm
  8. Thats an excellent punishment although it should not have been done in front of all those ppl. My mom used to make us kids do that when we would fight but it didn’t involve the humiliation factor.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:30pm
  9. The principal should be fired. This just encourages anti-gay bullies.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:34pm
  10. I can’t believe that this is something that can actually happen. Perception of homosexuality used as a punishment…:(

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:39pm
  11. Truly cruel and unusual. No matter what the other students’ epithets had been, it’s dehumanizing and shameful.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:44pm
  12. And everyone that made homophobic comments should have been punished too. But think if one or both would have popped wood.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:46pm
  13. This is wrong- making homosexuality look like a punishment. This is why we have a horrible education system.. Teachers, and administrators can’t keep their opinions, and views at home- they bring it to school to use against students…

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:55pm
  14. THIS IS AN AMAZING PUNISHMENT!
    sharing the experience of punishment with someone you’re fighting-> unity.
    of course high school students in arizona are going to make homophobic results for the first fifteen minutes of this. suspension-> drop outs.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:56pm
  15. and further note it does increase anite-gay behavor in ppl and that makes me sick knowing this and how the school would do this as a punishment

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:00pm
  16. The school should be in major trouble for this.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:07pm
  17. If they really wanted to teach them a lesson they should have made them spend lunch with each other for a week and get to know each other. Then write 3 or 5 page paper on each other and who they are as people. This is just wrong.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:09pm
  18. I read people commenting that this is how they were punished as small children. It’s cute when little Billy and Little Jimmy are three years old and they take a bath together. When Billy and Jimmy are fifteen years old and they take a bath together it changes the story a little. This is not appropriate for boys their age.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:13pm
  19. This is not at all what should have been done.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:16pm
  20. i’d hardly call sitting down and holding hands while people point at them and ask if they’re gay a bad thing. it’s teaching them a lesson. if people are going to bitch at me go ahead. sitting together and holding hands isn’t a bad punishment. it’s not making any insinuation that homosexuality is a punishable offense. it’s helping them learn how to get along. don’t get butthurt because of something small like this. there are bigger things to be worrying about than a couple of kids beating the snot out of each other and forced to hold hands as a punishment.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:20pm
  21. This is sad. It promotes bullying-which is the last thing any school and any kids need and it sends a highly offensive message of “gay shame”, which is yet something else that our schools and kids do NOT need any more of. Why can’t we teach our kids that they should be themselves, and that being authentic is beautiful. 2 boys holding hands in school, while their peers watch, should not be humiliating nor should that humiliation be used as a punishment against them. That is terrible! It should be seen and encouraged to be seen as no big deal…it should matter about as much as the type of milk a student chooses at lunch.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:20pm
  22. Totally inappropriate punishment for bullying….these two boys should never hav been given the option of either suspension or holding hands. Did they give their victims a choice of how to be bullied? I doubt it. It just plays into the drama of gay v. straight,and in my book the principal who offered this choice of punishment is just as anti-gay as the two boys are, not to mention as ignorant.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:26pm
  23. Well, this is ridiculously unacceptable. If you’re okay with this as a form of punishment you need to reassess your morality and principles.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:27pm
  24. It’s the motivation behind making them hold hands as a punishment that makes it inappropriate. If it was just about getting along, they could have made them hold hands in the the office or something like that. The administration knew that putting them out in public to hold hands would expose them to humiliation. This humiliation would be felt because admin knew that appearing affectionate with each other would open them to gay taunts.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:30pm
  25. If they’d bullied one another, Annelise, I’d agree, but they didn’t,they were the perpetrators and in essence got away with their behavior. There are way more important issues, it is true, but hatred and bad behavior need to be called out and dealt with at all levels, no matter how innocuous or seemingly unimportant. How many people would feel it appropriate punishment if these boys have insulted say, an African_American girl and were forced to hold hands with another African-American girl as their only punishment?

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:31pm
  26. There is nothing wrong with making two boys hold hands in public while their peers shout “faggots” at them? What page am I on?

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:33pm
  27. Well,William, i agree the punishment was inappropriate, but maybe for different reasons than you do. On the one hand, they now have a glimmer of how it feels to be treated like they treated their victims. On the other hand, since when do high school kids-or anyone,really-get to choose a punishment? Personally, I think a suspension and mandatory counseling for a period would be appropriate. These boys will never know the courage and bravery it takes to ignore the taunts and bad behavior of others and hold your head high and say “Yeah, baby, I am a faggot, so fuck off.”

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:40pm
  28. They were being punished for fighting, if anybody actually took the time to read the article. Witch, because apparently you need it spelled out, had nothing to do with them bullying gay people. The fact that the school thought this would be a good punishment for that is what is disgusting. It is saying that there are still negative connotations with holding another mans hand, They allowed and even encouraged students to utter slurs in an attempt to humiliate them.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:52pm
  29. I do not believe the principal’s intention was to create a perception of homosexuality. These two gentlemen were fighting and as a form of punishment the principal suggested they hold hands in friendship.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:53pm
  30. School administrators and teaches should incorporate the theory of tolerance and social learning theory into their curriculum as a means to educate and combat bullying in the LGBT population.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:55pm
  31. Yeah, because straight boys always hold hands as a sign of friendship…

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:55pm
  32. this sick spirit of abu ghraib. what’s this than torture, just another kind of corrective rape! how ill a society can be?

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 5:58pm
  33. It’s sad that the idea of being seen holding the hand of another guy is a punishment.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:03pm
  34. What the hell is wrong with people?! I wouldn’t want that Principal anywhere near my kids

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:09pm
  35. Reinforcing homophobia??

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:13pm
  36. As a GAY man I don’t see the big deal here. They were fighting which is worse. As far as students teasing them, sounds like the school needs classes to teach tolerance. I think the principle meant well. Next time he should just ruin their school record with the suspension I guess.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:17pm
  37. I think this is great. I would have made these two hold hands as well

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:39pm
  38. what happens if there was a real gay couple holdin hands in school? will they get taunted and etc.? same thing as sayin a slang in place of ones color.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 7:41pm
  39. they should have had to do charity together, better themselves, their perspective, their community. This is a catalyst for more violence. Its homophobia that even makes this a punishment. Substituting one hate for another destroys us all.

    Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 8:18pm
  40. Airz… yet again is backwards racist, homophobic and uperside down.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 12:47am
  41. Tell me something are Americans really this stupid ?????? There is absolutely nothing wrong for two men to hold hands even if they are straight, and if people were taunting them they are fucking idiots.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 2:26am
  42. It is sad that most of you thing this is a homosexual attack. It makes all of us look bad. It is a connection think between bully and victim. It makes me sick as a LGBTQ person to see everyone acting like a damn child.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 3:37am
  43. Logan, this has nothing to do with bulying, these two boys were fighting. As a result, their punishing has been to hold hands in public in order to be humiliated by their peers, as if two boys holding hands should be somewhat degrading. So if you have to be sick, the toilet is in the corner, help yourself.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 5:38am
  44. What this principal doesn’t seem to understand, probably because he has never been young himself, is that these are not two 3 years old that he made them kiss and make up. By humiliating them the way he did, the quarrel might escalate into something very dangerous for one or even both these young men. Because whatever made them fight left aside, now they could become real enemies, and none of them will be protected by the principal of the school trying his kindergarten trick on them outside of the school. That man has no clue about psychology of teenagers.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 6:15am
  45. I am PROUD of of this principal.. stop fighting in school..thats what this is really about , but alot of you taker it to another level with out looking at the simplicity of it. The principal is teaching them not to fight, has NOTHING to do with being gay or bullying. if this was 1950 and the principal did this, the parents and probably the town stand behind the principal. but in this day and age ,its looked at as the principal is bulling.. for once the parents meed to stop babying the children and dicisplin the children.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 8:40am
  46. That’s fucked up. It puts a negative spin on homosexuality.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 10:45am
  47. Someone’s gonna get sued…..just wait and see.

    Posted on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 2:33pm