Two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona were punished for fighting by being forced to hold hands. The principal is now at the center of an argument over whether his punishment was outside the box or wrong. (Facebook)

Two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona were punished for fighting by being forced to hold hands. The principal is now at the center of an argument over whether his punishment was outside the box or wrong. (Facebook)

Controversy after principal makes two boys hold hands in public after fight

A principal is under fire in Arizona after his method of “punishment by humiliation” has left many upset.

Students named Julio and Charles of Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona, were brought to Principal Tim Richards after a fist fight and presented with two choices. They could either be suspended — or they could hold hands for an hour in front of fellow students.

The high school duo conferred and decided to hold hands, as students laughed at them and uploaded pictures to social media sites while they sat in chairs outside with their faces covered.

Now Richards has been criticized by the Mesa school district, which released a statement criticizing his actions.

“The district does not condone the choice of in-school discipline given these students, regardless of their acceptance or willingness to participate,” the statement said. “District leadership will address this matter with the school principal, and review district protocol regarding student discipline with all administrators.”

Many took to Twitter to criticize Richards, saying he was encouraging bullying and homophobia by insinuating that being gay and holding hands is an embarrassment.

A Facebook page was created on Friday calling for Richard to be suspended. But all of the criticism has also brought out supporters for the embattled principal. On Monday more than 100 student showed their support for him by participating in a hand-holding event. “It was a peaceful event,”  district spokeswoman Helen Hollands told ArizonaCentral.com.

Before the incident came to light, Richards was praised at a Nov. 27 governing-board meeting by Mesa schools superintendent Michael Cowan for starting several innovative programs to motivate students to be on time for class and to work harder on their grades. Students get about 30 minutes a day four days a week for “celebration” — time away from class for snacks, music and social activities — if they are not failing any of their classes. Those who are failing a class must stay inside and do school work. The number of failing students has dropped by about 300 since the start of the school year.

Clarissa Celaya wrote in a Facebook comment that she is a mother of kids who go to the school and Richards got permission of the students and their parents to go forward with this punishment.

“This is the school my girls go to and I can’t believe this has gone viral,” she wrote. “The principal got the boy’s permission and the parent’s permission…so I don’t know what the big deal is…they have an AWESOME principal who has really turned that school around.”

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