Firestorm grows over Mesa students forced to hold hands - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Firestorm grows over Mesa students forced to hold hands

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Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012 9:51 pm | Updated: 3:26 pm, Mon Dec 3, 2012.

A photo of two Valley students caused a firestorm of controversy all over the country, and now it's sparking even more developments.

Two boys, caught fighting at school, chose to hold hands in front of classmates in exchange for not being suspended. It's a move the Mesa Unified School District does not support.

But, parents and students are speaking out against the district and supporting the punishment.

Elizabeth Engle, a student at Westwood High School in Mesa, started a public event on Facebook called "A Mark on Warrior History". It's an invitation to students to hold hands across campus Monday at 10 a.m. to show the principal he's not alone. So far, more than 400 students have said they’ll participate.

Engle admits she's taking a gamble, but says she thinks it's for the best because she believes it’s simply an alternative punishment that won’t blemish the boys' records.

But, many have been critical of the move. We talked to Westwood students who say the punishment encourages bullying, while others say it sends a negative message to gay students because it portrays hand-holding by two males as humiliating.

Roger Webb, an openly gay parent of a Westwood High School student, disagrees.

He started a petition on www.change.org , challenging the Mesa district's strong opposition to the punishment.

"It had nothing to do with portraying homosexuality as wrong. It had everything to do with teaching two boys that there is a peaceful way to resolve things and learn a lesson that lasts," Webb wrote on www.change.org .

Webb started the petition two days ago and is trying to get more than 10,000 signatures. So far, more than 500 people have signed it.

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