Was The Arizona Principal Right To Make These Boys Hold Hands As Punishment?

December 13, 2012  |  

Source: http://www.abc15.com

This story about an Arizona principal’s choice of punishment kind of slipped through the pages of the blogosphere but it bears noting and repeating.

According to the local Arizona ABC news affiliate:

Two East Valley 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. “I’ve been in ROTC and it’s no different than some of the stuff you have to do there. It works.” 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.

While the community and most of his students were behind the school administrator, who is said to be in his first year at this high school, one of the male students told the reporter that he was so embarrassed that he wanted to yell at them, but couldn’t so he put his head down in shame. The school district administrators said that they do not approve of the tactic and will be investigating it further.  And if you ask me, rightly so. I mean the boys certainly did get a lesser punishment but it’s probably not the lesson we want to teach the next generation.

Did it get to the root of why these boys were misbehaving? Or was the sole intent to shame and humiliate them into “good behavior”? And let’s not forget all the unchecked homophobia. This is one of the reasons why I’m becoming more and more trepidatious about these public shaming tactics used by some adults as corrective punishments for children. I don’t think the principal should lose his job over it.  In this instance, I am sure the principal meant well and probably was trying to teach the boys how to interact in more loving, non-violent ways. The problem isn’t the hand holding, it was having the boys sit on display as their classmates encircled them, laughing, mocking and making statements that could be misconstrued as homophobic. What could have been a teachable moment for the entire lot of children became another lesson on the subtle ways in which we as a society condone hazing – if not bullying.

Likewise, having kids hold hands as a form of punishment or consequence to bad behavior sort of reinforces the notions that there is something negative about not just homosexuality, but straight men and boys being affection and kind with one another.  This is important in an era where hyper-aggression, particularly in the media, is the norm in all of American society and anything remotely “feminine” including hand holding, is considered weak or less than masculine. Shouldn’t the message we should be sending every single day that it is okay for men in any circumstances to embrace and show affection?

Hopefully there is some discussion with staff and students, in particular the ones who pointed and laughed. If anything, I say kudos to the young men in this story, who were secure enough in themselves to hold hands in the face of ridicule and shame. Because everybody knows, a behind whipping by mom and/or dad for getting suspended from school is ten times worse than what ignorant stuff your classmates have to say – unless you were one of those kids, who never had to fear the wrath of your parents. In that instance, you too have to wonder about any students, who may decide to take the suspension over temporarily looking awkward.

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  • Wow! I can’t believe how many people support this. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay, but humiliation as, punishment only causes insecurity and self-esteem issues. there’s even laws against humiliation at the workplace why is it ok to humiliate kids. I have gay friends and family and am far from homophobic but it doesn’t mean I want people to think I’m gay., and hugging a sibling after a fight is totally different. Straight men don’t hold hands where I’m from. Maybe handshake or even hug. No holding hands.

  • ms honey b.

    I disagree wit da punishment he went to far wit dat, dats jus isn’t call for nstead of suspension he cud of jus gave dem sac for like a week nstead of tryna hold hands dat makes u think twice bout dat principal…uh hu!!!!!

  • JustSayin

    I think that this article isn’t accurate. The principle gave them two options. Either they would be suspended or they could hold hands. They made that choice. But; regardless… they need to learn that it is not okay to fight period. This is high school… you do not put your hands on someone because you lack the patience or the proper words to get your emotions out. I would have had them sitting next to each other through class and the whole nine. That principal is smart!

  • I agree with this method because just as embarrassing as them having to hold hands in front of their peers, they should be just as embarrassed for fighting in the middle of the school day. Some people need to get over their homophobic judgments and see things for what they really are. Even though those boys made a stupid decision to get in a fight they made a better decision taking the holding hands punishment over being suspended.

    When I was in high school we had this Vice Principal that everyone hated because all he did was suspend people over unnecessary things. He was in the military so he had that tough no nonsense way of discipline, but the sad part about his discipline was when he got deployed to Iraq all of us were relived because we didn’t have to deal with him anymore. Maybe if he and other administrators like him would adopt this style of discipline, we wouldn’t have had the attitude that we did. Thank God that he didn’t get harmed during his tour, but I was recently working at my old high school, he’s back, and the students still can’t stand him lol.

  • KJ

    I agree with the principal. This was a wonderful exercise. He gave these young men an option of embrace instead of continuous hatred with one another by allowing them the choice to hold hands. What’s wrong with that? I personally believe that these two can possibly become “cool” with one another after this. Now they share a mutual feeling that hopefully goes beyond their disgust for one another. As most of the commentators have stated, homophobic ideas never entered my mind as I read this story. It really saddens me how men cant love each other without being labeled as gay. I think that we need more administrators like this principal in the school system. We need more straight men teaching these young dudes how to channel their emotions in the right direction. (Side Note): The only way homophobia could be associated with this course of action is because of high school children. This was done in front of a bunch of 9th-12th graders who are completely immature. I’m so sick of people equating everything that doesn’t seem “quite right” back to being gay. Furthermore, if someone is against the ACT of homosexuality…what’s wrong with that? That is their personal belief and they too are entitled to their thoughts. It’s no different than someone who does not eat pork. It can be for spiritual reasons or simply because it does not arouse their particular taste. But whatever the reason, it is still their choice. **NEWS FLASH** Their are plenty of people that do not accept, like, believe, or approve of many things, but as long as we do not infringe our thoughts or actions on another person…STOP TRYING TO MAKE ACCEPTABLE WHAT IS NOT OKAY FOR SOMEONE ELSE!!!!!!

  • DoinMe

    “I mean the boys certainly did get a lesser punishment but it’s probably not the lesson we want to teach the next generation.” GIRL BYE!! This generation is too babyfied.

    I love it! Shame them and embarrass them good! Gay, straight, or whatever. Sometimes humiliation works better than butt whooping and other forms of punishment. I bet they won’t fight again after this. Ha!

  • hiswomanandlovingit

    Hand holding is a sign of friendship. The problem is with people who want to see the boogie-man of homosexuality in every corner. The boys learned a lesson, yes they were embarrassed but they are none worse for wear. The boys CHOSE this punishment. One boy was facing 9 days of suspension and the other expulsion. I think it was mature of them to come to this solution. They both wanted to be in school, why isn’t anyone focusing on that. If they were home what would it have taught them besides give them an early Christmas break? The people who have a problem with this clearly would rather that the children have a suspension/expulsion on the records. Think clearly, how wasn’t this a better alternative?

  • Kathy

    You said it all right here “Likewise, having kids hold hands as a form of punishment or consequence to bad behavior sort of reinforces the notions that there is something negative about not just homosexuality. But!!! straight men and boys being affection and kind with one another.” That should be the focus point, turn it around and show that men and boys can once again be affectionate towards one another without being homosexual. Just like back in the days when they did show love towards one another with hugs, holding onto each other while walking down the street, and hand shakes. Some tribal cultures today men walk down the street holding hands in brotherly love. However, one would have to both know, and be comfortable, in their own skin first, or should I say be secure and know themselves?

  • They should be embarrassed. They shouldn’t have fought.

  • I don’t see anything wrong with the punishment… I just think it’s sad that everything always gets turned around to be homophobic. But, these are still young folks, so I guess it is what it is with that. It says in the article that they chose this punishment instead of being suspended, so I don’t get why he was so embarrassed.

  • Gigi

    Ms. Ball, I believe that you may need to bring your outrage meter down a few notches. (1) These are boys, not men. Future men, sure, but not yet. (2)Like many of the commenters here have said, my first thought when I read this was remembering having to do this in pre-school and kindergarten after fighting with a schoolmate. My mind did not go to anything homosexual until it was mentioned in the article. I believe the principal’s intent harkened back to those pre-school days and he in no way intended to stir up homophobic aggression towards these boys. That you chose to see it that way says more about you than it does about the principal.

  • Trisha_B

    I’ve seen parents make siblings who were fighting hug each other. I’ve seen pics of parents putting the 2 children who were fighting in 1 big t-shirt together for closeness. I see nothing wrong w/ the punishment. The other students calling them gay are just immature. Teens today say “i love you” to their friends & follow it w/ “no homo.” There’s more to being gay than holding hands.

  • Patt Boone

    I guess I’m baffled at the principal’s lack of creativity. I mean these boys weren’t in kindergarten for God’s sake. I mean if you go to Africa and Middle East men hold hands all the time. There’s nothing “gay,” or homophobic about it. And also I am disturbed that the adult sees two boys holding hands as a “punishment.” It reinforces negative stereotypes about male affection. It is precisely these boys lack of compassion and ability to express their feelings in a true manner that they ended up fighting in the first place. At first I thought the writer was overreacting but I tend to agree with her. This was an immature punishment for an immature action.

  • Ladybug94

    These boys will be fine, plus they did have the option to choose which punishment they wanted. They’ll be ok and hopefully they will think twice next time.

  • Candacey Doris

    This was a good punishment. Kids don’t learn anything by being suspended. When i was in high school they thought of it as vacation! Embarrassment is a much better tool. I bet they won’t do this again.

  • So tired of Black folks not having a solution for a problem but judges other’s solutions. If the boys got suspended, then what? Two young Black men at home not learning a thing. It says something that they would have rather have held hands than take the suspension. They want to be there in school. Isn’t that the point? We don’t know if their was discussion behind closed doors of what and why these two acted a fool.Why do we assume there wasn’t and that wasn’t why the conclusion of the two punishments happened? This was a lesson of love and we turn it into a lesson of hate. Maybe this article was written because of homophobia, and the author being uncomfortable with the male on male intimate interaction. These young me learned a lesson and isn’t that the point of a punishment? I hope any homophobic rhetoric was refuted and punished by the staff, towards these young men, but I think it was a great punishment.

  • Prissy

    THIS was more affective than any suspension. I agree 10000% with the school officials.

  • Charla

    They weren’t made to it. They had another option…

  • Cakester

    When I was younger and would get into fights with my sisters (there are 6 of us) my mother would make us hug and kiss each other…. I learned my lesson! I think the punishment has more to do with embarrassment than it does homosexuality. Parents are always wanting the school to do more, so there… I’d rather someone punish my son this way, than to allow him to continue fighting!

    • Ladybug94

      My grandmother used to do the same thing with us. She’d make us hug one another and say go ahead love on your sister/brother. She definitely taught us to love and not hate. I agree the punishment has nothing to do with homosexuality and whoever thinks holding hands is synonymous with homosexuality needs some counseling.

  • Kaori

    Hahahaha! I think the punishment was a result of someone playing on the fact that young guys, especially Black boys, can be extremely homophobic.

  • lynn

    I have a problem with him being embarassed about holding hands but not being embarassed about acting like an animal while fighting. I agree with the punishment. Kudos to the principal!

    • MLS2698


    • Kids get in fights everyday.

  • Guest360

    Honestly? I dont see the big deal. As you stated, the community and the students themselves agreed with the punishment so why are OTHER PEOPLE who probably couldn’t pick this place off of a map, blowing it up and treating it like a bad thing? I don’t see the connotation of homophobia. I do see the principal trying to be creative in his efforts to decrease the level of violence in his school by forcing students to work together to overcome their issues. Of course both boys were made fun of. They should be. Of course they were ashamed and embarrassed they should be. Fighting is not ok and with more “punishments” like these, I think more students will get the picture.

    • Na Na

      We are getting so weak as a society that we are raising children who cannot stand to be any types of uncomfortable. Hence, when they face some emotional situation like failing a test or having a breakup…they run and shoot up a mall or kill their girlfriends and themselves. We condition these soon to be adults and if we keep setting them up to not face tough situations they’re going to become more cowardly and mentally unstable by the generation…..while I’m typing this CNN flashes another school shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

      so kudos to the principal……stop behaving like wild animals kids.

  • Miss_Understood

    “having kids hold hands as a form of punishment or consequence to bad behavior sort of reinforces the notions that there is something negative about not just homosexuality” I totally agree with this statement but I am also a firm believer that embarrassment works better with teens than punishment or suspensions..

    • chanela

      RIGHT! hell most dont want to be at school anyway so a suspension is like a damn vacation. LOL