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Students show solidarity for principal who punished teens

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MESA, Ariz. -

Students at one Mesa high school are showing support for their principal, who was under scrutiny for having two male students hold hands in the middle of campus.

The act was a punishment, chosen by the students in place of suspension for fighting.

Monday, hundreds of kids held hands during an impromptu rally. We saw dozens, possibly hundreds of Westwood High students rallying in support of their principal Dr. Tim Richards.

Former Westwood student Linsey Merrill lives across the street and watched in awe as the students held hands the same way these two did last week.

"I think that's something unheard of, you never see kids supporting their principal like that, I think it's a big deal, I like it," says Merrill.

The boys in the photo were being punished by Dr. Richards for fighting on school grounds.

Some questioned Dr. Richards' actions. But today his students stood up for him.

"I think it shows that they care about their education and they care about their school and they are leaders in their school," says mother April Mahaffey.

Mahaffey wore a "keep calm and hold hands" shirt to show she backs the principal. Her daughter participated in the rally.

Mahaffey is among the many who think this treatment spoke volumes -- not just to the students in the picture, but everyone else.

"Kids nowadays aren't held accountable enough and that's the problem with the world now. And I think that it was a perfect punishment for what happened and if my daughter were one of the students I would say go ahead," she says.

The school district sent out a statement last week saying in part it doesn't support this type of punishment, but told us Dr. Richards will remain principal and that the students who rallied today will not be disciplined.

Statement by District

Westwood High School is an outstanding institution, motivated by student success. Dr. Timothy Richard has initiated many exciting changes in his first year as principal. The district recognizes the recent events at the school have brought out passionate reactions across a broad spectrum of beliefs. We look forward to refocusing the attention of the Westwood community on the critical mission of student learning and achievement under Dr. Richard's leadership.

Statement by Dr. Timothy Richard

I believe in every one of our students and their ability to choose unity, peace and friendship in the pursuit of academic excellence. I am proud of the positive changes the students and staff of Westwood High School have made this year. My hope is that the recent events do not take our eye off the prize -- academic success for every Westwood Warrior.

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