Principal orders boys to hold hands after fighting

The words to the LDS primary song “Kindness Begins With Me”, are forever ingrained on the brain. If us siblings were really getting into it (correction: WHEN), my mother would make us sit on “the bench” and sweetly sing these words:

“I want to be kind to everyone, for that is right you see                                                             So I say to myself, remember this: kindness begins with me.”

Sometimes if we were feeling really rebellious we’d sing it double-time, sounding like crazy auctioneers or possibly insert the word “you” for every “I” or “me” in the song in which case we’d have to start all over and sing it again the right way. But by that time, we’d usually be laughing so hard any bad feelings would be gone and we’d jump off the bench, buddies again.

High school principal Dr. Tim Richard of Westwood High in Mesa, Arizona has been under fire recently because of a rather unusual punishment for two high school students who were caught fighting in gym class: hand holding.

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According to, the students were given two options: hold hands for an hour in public, or face suspension. The boys opted to hold hands and someone snapped a picture of the mortified boys with their heads bowed, hands loosely clasped, and the photo went viral.

“The district did not support or condone the choice [Richard] made,” said Helen Hollands with Mesa Public Schools.

Some parents wrote in enraged, saying that something like this could cause teen suicide, or homosexuality. Others said it was extremely offensive to the gay and lesbian community, arguing that holding hands or “acting gay” shouldn’t be considered punishment.

Take Part reported, “The message here seems to be that there’s nothing more horrific than being perceived as gay.”

But many other students and parents disagreed with the backlash, and stood firmly behind Dr. Richard’s decision, including a man named Roger Webb who describes himself as a “gay dad.”

“What the truth was, was that he did this with pure intentions to teach these kids an amazing lesson,” Webb said who’s daughter attends Westwood and even wrote a song in support of Dr. Richard. Many other students rallied by wearing orange shirts to school that read, “Keep calm and hold hands.”

When I first saw the picture and read the story, my first reaction was to laugh a little. Seeing two embarrassed teenage boys hold hands in an attempt to “kiss and make up”  minutes after throwing punches seemed like a very fitting punishment. I didn’t see it as inappropriate-perhaps very unorthodox, but certainly not cruel.

Dr. Richard released this statement Monday:

“I believe in every one of our students and their ability to choose unity, peace and friendship in the pursuit of academic excellence. I am proud of the positive changes the students and staff of Westwood High School have made this year. My hope is that the recent events do not take our eye off the prize — academic success for every Westwood Warrior.”

I think those boys have certainly learned their lesson. They will not be scarred for life. If anything, I think it’s great someone could think outside the box and come up with a punishment that balanced respect with violence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this unusual punishment.





  1. shawnm750

    I have to side with the principal in this situation. I heard of a father that used to make his boys go out in front of the house and hug for five minutes any time they got into a fight. If they broke contact, they would have to start over. If they kept breaking contact, he’d make them stand out by the main road through town and hug.

    I think these types of “punishment” are more effective than others because they force people to directly interact in a non-combative physical way, which in the case of the boys in the article and my referenced example, is the opposite of what got them in trouble. Sure these boys were embarrassed. But they also agreed to the punishment. And who knows, now that they’ve shared the experience, they may eventually even be friends. At the very least, they won’t fight anymore, because one can only imagine what the principal would make them do if they did! B^D

  2. Kevin

    The kids most probably experienced this as sexual abuse. Principal was indulging his own fantasies and should be fired.

  3. Juan Figuroa

    Clue: Holding hands isn’t “gay.” It’s holding hands. Little girls do it. Little boys do it. Moms and daughters do it. Dads and sons do it. People helping other people do it. Sisters, brothers, friends, God. Holding hands isn’t even a sign of affection, necessarily. It’s just … holding hands.

    And these two clearly have no affection for one another.

    Huzzah for the principal.

  4. Justin

    Considering the principal gave the students the choice between holding hands and suspension and they chose the former, I don’t see anything coming of it. If the principal would have forced them, without choice, then I can see problems. The concept about sexual orientation really has nothing to do with this, it is about making up after a fight.

  5. Jordan

    I think it was a little inappropriate if he forced them but he gave them a choice, and they would rather do that then suspension. Anyway, if they hadn’t started the fight, it never would have happened. I agree with the principal.

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