Posted by: Catherine Lugg | December 3, 2012

AZ public school principal punishes boys for fighting

by making them hold hands for 15 minutes.

Two male students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona were disciplined for fighting by being ordered to hold hands during their lunch period. They had the choice of holding hands or being suspended.

Of course, since this punishment was designed to publicly humiliate the boys, their peers responded in the expected homophobic ways.

“Kids were laughing at them and calling them names, asking, ‘Are you gay?’” student Brittney Smyers told ABC affiliate KNXV.

Teens at the high school inevitably posted photos of the two, who spent the time shielding their faces with their heads in their hands, to social media sites.

Now, AZ does not have legal protections for queer kids or kids who are perceived to be queer under its “no promo homo law,”1 so there are no immediate civil rights violations at the state level. But clearly, the principal, Tim Richard is homophobic and seems fine using public humiliation and peer bullying as forms of in-school discipline–not exactly best leadership practice.

While Richard’s bigotry is not actionable under state law, the fact that the principal free-lanced on what offenses warrant suspension is going to put him in hot water with his superintendent. Nevertheless, the larger issue of homophobic educational leadership will not be addressed–since it is legally protected under current state law.

1 “No promo homo laws“:

expressly forbid teachers from discussing gay and transgender issues (including sexual health and HIV/AIDS awareness) in a positive light-if at all. Some laws even require that teachers actively portray LGBT people in a negative or inaccurate way. These statutes only serve to further stigmatize LGBT students by providing K-12 students false, misleading, or incomplete information about LGBT people. There are currently 8 states that have these types of laws: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

These laws basically mandate state-sponsored queer bashing in public schools. Seriously. They should NOT withstand federal constitutional scrutiny since they seem to run afoul of the 1996 Romer decision (state law cannot specifically target a minority group for curtailment of their civil rights) as well as the First Amendment (freedom of speech AND establishment).


  1. Call ’em out, Cath!

  2. Don’t high school principals make pretty decent money? And that’s the best idea the guy could come up with?!

  3. What a stupid attempt to punish/teach these kids a lesson. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised the kids agreed to it!

  4. I believe that this is the same state that has banned ethnic studies at the K-12 level. Period. No ethnic studies, no infusion of literature that might cause ‘resentment’ or ‘ethnic pride’. So this isn’t surprising. :/

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