I was shocked to see a video where a Mesa, AZ principal forced two boys to hold hands as a punishment for fighting (Per AV's comments below, the boys were given a choice of punishments which included this option). The video shows fellow students ridiculing two boys. Let's not focus on the crime (that is not the point). No matter what the reason this punishment is wrought with legal(?) and ethical issues. The situation points a bad, bad light on the principal and the school. Here are the messages the principal sent the students and the community.
"Bullying is OK in my school."
- The principal created a structure where the students could / would / should get harassed.
- Leaders are there to protect students from such behaviors NOT reinforce or create safe havens for those behavior. This principal showed if one has a good reason, it is OK to bully other person.
"One's sexual orientation is cause for harassment."
- The principal allowed / wanted students to be bullied based on ‘perceived’ sexual orientation.
- Doing this sent the message that being gay (even though the students were not) is bad. The punishment reinforced that gay=wrong=bad and was DESERVING of ridicule.
- Another message sent is that simply being seen as gay (as demonstrated through holding hands) is worse than causing physical injury to another human being.
"Schools are not safe places and should be treated like prisons."
- Schools are often likened to prisons; these acts reinforce that vision.
- By allowing a fist fight to be refocused into a sanctioned verbal attack, the principal created a prison-like (well, the Hollywood version of a prison) environment where punishments can be given by those on the inside.
School leaders have a challenging job. I get that. I honor that. Using one's power to advocate bullying, support homophobic slurs, and to create a prison mentality is simply opposite the call of duty.
Note to the community: The place to put pressure is on the school board. It is their responsibility to create welcoming and comfortable schools. Let's hope they act responsibly.
Image credit: Flicker user Vectorportal