Holding Hands

In the sentencing phase of a trial, a judge has to be sure that the punishment ordered is one that fits the crime.  Parents and educators often struggle with the same issue. Last week Tim Richard, Principal of Westwood High School in Mesa allowed two males students a choice of punishments. Either they could get suspended, or they could sit in front of their fellow students holding hands for fifteen minutes during lunch time. The latter seeming to be a milder punishment obviously offered to teach other students the importance of getting along, as the two had been caught fighting.

According to azcentral.com, the two students chose to hold hands. Embarrassed, they sat, faces down while there fellow students looked on. One student took a photo with their cell phone and posted it to the internet causing a whirlwind of media coverage and debate on the appropriateness of the punishment. The website quotes district spokesperson Helen Hollands as saying, “I would say this will not be happening again,” and said that the principal was told that the punishment violates district policy.

Principal Richards has instituted creative programs at Westwood, such as granting students who are not failing any of their classes 30 minutes of “celebration” time almost every day.  Those students that are failing classes need to stay inside and do school work, while the others enjoy the opportunity to socialize, snack and listen to music. There are now 300 less students failing classes than at the beginning of the year.

While the two hand-holding students – whose names have not been released – may have wished to have their 15 minutes of fame in some other way, students at the school are supportive of the principal and upset at the media attention the online photo has attracted. On Tuesday, about 200 students held a hand-holding event at the school where they lined up and formed chains and circles of hand-holding students to show support of Principal Richards.

Fair choices, or too humiliating? What do you think?

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