By Cathryn Creno, The Republic
Mesa Public Schools officials say a punishment administered by a new principal at Westwood High School this week violates district policy.
Principal Tim Richard required two boys who had been fighting to hold hands in front of their fellow students. An image of the students, whose names are being withheld by the school district, was posted on Facebook by another student, which generated a discussion about whether the punishment was acceptable.
"I would say this will not be happening again," said district spokeswoman Helen Hollands.
She said she did not know if Principal Tim Richard, who was hired at the start of the school year, will be reprimanded for the "out of the box" discipline but she said officials have met with the principal let him know that forced hand holding violates district policy.
Hollands also released this statement:
"Mesa Public Schools is dedicated to maintaining a safe and supportive learning environment. The district has guidelines for appropriate student discipline, and our site administrators have the authority to impose consequences within our policies and regulations. The district does not condone the choice of in-school discipline given these students, regardless of their acceptance or willingness to participate. District leadership will address this matter with the school principal, and review district protocol regarding student discipline with all administrators."
Before the incident came to light, Richard was praised at Tuesday's governing-board meeting by Mesa schools superintendent Michael Cowan.
Richard, who was principal of Globe High School last year, has started several innovative programs at Westwood to motivate students to be on time for class and to work harder on their grades.
Students get about 30 minutes a day four days a week for "celebration" - time away from class for snacks, music and social activities - if they are not failing any of their classes. Those who are failing a class must stay inside and do school work. The number of failing students has dropped by about 300 since the start of the school year.
Reached Friday morning by phone, Richard said he would like to tell his side of the story, but has been told by district officials not to do so.