Target: Westwood High School Principal Tim Richards
Goal: Apologize for and promise to stop humiliating, homophobic school discipline
An Arizona high school principal recently punished two students who were fighting by forcing them to sit in the school courtyard holding hands while other students shouted homophobic slurs at them. The two Westwood High School students got into a fist fight during class, prompting Principal Tim Richards to give the teens a choice: suspension or public humiliation. The students chose the latter. The students were taunted from all sides by their peers, who laughed, called them homophobic epithets, and asked taunting questions such as “Are you gay?” for an hour.
The principal, who has worked at Westwood High for only a year, was brought in to reinvigorate the school’s reputation. The punishment has been apparently effective in keeping the two students from fighting since. However, it has also had consequences for the students involved. One of the punished students claims to have skipped school the following day because the teasing had become unbearable. The school district has also issued a statement of disapproval against Principal Richards’ actions.
Even if the punishment effectively prevented the students from fighting, it is an unacceptable form of punishment. This kind of public shaming is needlessly humiliating for the students involved. It also encourages bullying and legitimizes it in the eyes of the students. What’s more, the nature of the taunting encouraged by Principal Richards is insulting to LGBT students. It equates being gay or perceived as gay to being suspended. Principal Richards’ punishment is a form of sanctioned bullying and its homophobic content will likely exacerbate the social ostracism LGBT students already face. Tell Principal Tim Richards that his disciplinary techniques are inappropriate and unacceptable.
Dear Principal Tim Richards,
I am writing this letter to denounce the kind of punishment you implemented for two students caught fighting in class. You had them hold hands and endure an hour of their peers shouting homophobic slurs at them. This kind of discipline is wrong for several reasons.
First, it is extreme public shaming that is not beneficial for the students. One of the punished students apparently stayed home from school the following day because of his shame and because of the teasing he received afterwards. This leads into the second reason why your punishment was inappropriate: it encourages more bullying. What you allowed to take place was sanctioned bullying. Bullying often leads to fighting, so I do not understand why you thought your disciplinary technique would send a good message to your students.
Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, your punishment is homophobic and equates being gay or being perceived as gay to being suspended. This is unacceptable. No student should feel ashamed for his or her sexuality and no student should feel as though one’s sexuality is something that should be used to shame others. The LGBT students at your school would agree, and they were most likely horrified by what they witnessed that day.
Certainly there are better ways to discipline young people. I ask that you publicly apologize for the punishment you issued and to promise to never implement it or anything like it again.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Takepart.com