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.
According to azfamily.com, 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.