Students to rally in support of Mesa principal behind hand-holding punishment

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

MESA, Ariz. -- Students from Mesa's Westwood High School plan to rally in support of their principal, who could be in hot water after doling out an unconventional punishment to a pair of students for fighting.

Rather than automatically suspending the two boys, Principal Tim Richard gave them the option of holding hands in front of their classmates for an hour. They took it.

The boys, reportedly a freshman and a sophomore, were teased and pictures of them were posted on Facebook.

Late last week the district said that Richard's punishment was not appropriate and said the incident will be addressed at a later time.

“The district does not condone the choice of in-school discipline given to these students, regardless of their acceptance or willingness to participate,” said the district in a statement. “District leadership will address this matter with the school principal and review district protocol regarding student discipline with all administrators.”

Many students, however, support what their principal did.

Westwood senior Elizabeth Engle organized Monday's rally.

"I believe that because of the choice they [the boys] made, they can open themselves up for a brighter future," Engle said a few hours before the rally. "They can change now instead of having that [suspension] ruin their record for the rest of their high-school career."

Engle posted a Facebook event page Friday. Dozens of classmates were quick to respond.

"Our principal has been ridiculed for his decision, yet most of the student body at Westwood, strongly support his position and stand behind him," wrote Francisco Reyes IV in an email to 3TV. "They ALL learned a lesson on Wednesday. not just the two boys, but all 2000+ kids at Westwood. ... Imagine what a better world these kids will be equipped to lead from this one lesson."

The rally is scheduled for 10 a.m.during "celebration," which is 28 minutes of free time four mornings a week awarded to students who are passing all of their classes.