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Bullying or Discipline?

Two boys at Westwood High School in Mesa, AZ were caught fighting and sent to the Principal’s office. Nothing out of the ordinary so far, right? But how Principal Tim Richards disciplined them is out of the ordinary. The boys were given the option: be suspended or hold hands in the middle of the school campus at lunch time.

The boys choose to hold hands.

What ensued for the boys was about an hour of public humiliation. If you watch the linked news video, you can hear students laughing at them.

13 Comments to
Bullying or Discipline?

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  1. This guy is sick. He needs to be fired. If he did this to one of my babies he would have dealt with a nightmare…ME…Momma Bear. I don’t understand why the boys didn’t take the suspension unless they were afraid of what would happen when they got home. I would have hugged my babies saying, “Good choice.” Then I still would have went after that perv for even suggesting holding hands knowing how cruel kids can be. That option has red flag predator alerts going off.

  2. I think it was a very good idea but he missed a trick. As soon as anyone watching made any nasty comments they should have had to hold hands too. Laughing, smirking, pointing that’s fine but once the mouth opens with a slur or insult they join the hand holding. And before they’re all allowed to let go they should all have to apologise to the other people holding their hands. It could have been an awesome teaching moment about tolerance & forgiveness. I think it’s a great idea but didn’t go far enough to correct the behaviour.

    • I think you are exactly right- if everyone had to join in there would not have been any shame in the discipline and it would never have been considered bullying at all. I suppose that someone should have asked what the principal intended though- humilitation or reconcilation and bonding?

  3. I think too many people see right and wrong as black and white. It is really grey. Anyone who expects perfection in life is doomed to fail and those who point the finger at others for failing usually have never tried to succeed. I think grace is in order for the principle. People today are too focused on themselves as individuals rather than what is good for the community as a whole.
    This is a learning experience for everyone and both sides have a lot to learn. It will be those people who can step into the grey perspective and give both grace and forgiveness as well as seek healing that will bring honor to this situation.

    This person is not sick. He is human as so are the kids. There is no perfect way to handle something and no perfect outcomes. I agree with Bexley that it would have been more successful if the responses of the kids had been responded to as well. However, we really don’t know if this was done or not. We are listening from secondary sources not primary sources so we need to be careful about our judgements of what has transpired here. Writers have motives and agendas. Don’t let them have the final say in our own understandings. Do your homework.

    However, I think the message would have been just as effective if the two had had to sit in a room together alone holding hands. In fact, it might would have been better because they could have healed in their relationship in some way. Putting them in public stopped this process. But I do not believe there is malice in this situation at all.

    • Carauser,
      Thank you for your reply, I completely agree. People are too quick to jump up and yell foul! Without knowing the whole story or motivations. To make two children who have been fighting hold hands does not scream pervert rather he was wrong or right. And labeling someone as a pervert or predator without any evidence is no different than the bullying/name calling that the other kids have done. Perhaps it should have been in private. Perhaps this wasn’t a first offense and the principal had tried multiple other methods. Perhaps they were bullies and he wanted to get the point across of how it felt to be bullied. Point is, we don’t know. And right or wrong I think it’s all being blown out of proportion.

      • No man I know would have used two boys holding hand as punishment from fighting.

    • Your idea that the principal needs grace is off a bit. Yes he needs grace, the kind where he needs a huge dose of humility and compassion and a course on anti-harassment. Bullying is something you do or say to make another person feel afraid, humiliated, intimidated, etc. I’d say the shoes the principal wears fit. There were many other consequences he could have come up with. An important principle to remember is what your interaction with a child is what they’ve learned, not what you meant to teach them. In this case, they learned shame, humiliation and resentment. They didn’t learn a thing about the right way to resolve a conflict.

  4. This disciplinary action taken by the school administrator is clearly bullying in and of itself.

    No positive lesson can be learned as a result of bullying – especially when an adult in a position of authority humiliates a child.

    This administrator should have decided a more effective consequence for the two students involved in a fight – he should have led by example.

  5. I am retired elementary school principal and have written two books. One is the Peaceful School Bus and other is No Place for Bullying that I wrote as a resource for school principals on the issue of bullying. I have written quite a bit on issues like this, but I will quickly comment on this particular situation. The key question that a principal should ask when facing a disciplinary decision is what can I do to help the students learn not to do this again? Unfortunately the default response by many principals is to apply a consequence and hope it deters future behavior. This does not work for many reasons. A better option is to help the students understand why what they did is a problem, learn that their way of solving the problem did not work and help them learn a better way. Schools need to shift from a criminal justice mindset and embrace a educational mindset. Most behavior issues tend to be more a lack of skill than faulty motivation. Social skills are harder to learn than academic skills so simply providing a consequence for the behavior is insufficient. I don’t blame the principal-we don’t provide much support for principals on how to make these judgment calls. They need mentoring and coaching by experienced administrators and this is often lacking. I wrote my book in a effort to support principals.

  6. I forgot to add I feel very strongly that public humiliation should never be used. A simple test any educator needs to use is the golden rule: is that something you would want to be done to you. I cannot think of any person who would want to be publicly humiliated. There is never an excuse or justification for treating any person with disrespect. There has to be limits on the options we use with students and public humiliation is off limits. I entitle a chapter of my book “You can’t bully your way to bullying prevention.”

    • Thank you Jim and everyone for your thought provoking responses!

  7. I’m shaking my head at the comments here. Me, I’d rather learn the consequences of his actions than baby him. And let’s not overstate things here: the boys chose their own punishment.

  8. seems like the armchair quarterbacks dont have anything else to comment on. had i been the principal and seeing i had few i would have done the same thing. as for momma bear maybe it is time for her to get out of the wooods that are part and parcel of her world then do something your words silenty tell readers you are unfamiliar with work with the man so that you BOTH will come up with a way to deal with the issue.if however as it seems in your words the idea of you BOTH coming up with idea it is not unlikely one or both of the combatanats will live with a concussion for the rest of HIS or HER life.
    as for the nonsense about being called gay it is my guess the kids who used the words or express some form of homphobia regularly hearthe same yelled out by /from a family member,
    clean up your own acts and look at life in the real world. there is much more to what the children who are the subject of these rants and this commentary which presents how much growing up and looking beyond its land based borders which americans as individuals and as a society have to learn to face.


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