A high school in Mesa, Arizona, is catching some flak online for giving two students caught fighting a choice between being suspended for nine days or spending part of the day holding hands in full view of their classmates.

A photo of the two Westwood High students carrying out their punishment was posted on several social networking sites, where users criticized the school for setting the teens up for possible bullying by their peers.

"Kids were laughing at them and calling them names asking, 'are you gay,'" one student who witnessed the incident told ABC 15. "I've been in ROTC and it's no different than some of the stuff you have to do there. It works," commented another student.

The "corporal punishment" lasted only about an hour, but one of the students, 14-year-old Charles Crockett, says he's been ditching classes ever since to avoid being teased.

"They was making fun of me and everything and I just wanted to yell at them but I couldn't," he told KPHO. "I just put my head down."

Crockett, who admits to instigating the fight with a sophomore named Julio during P.E. class, says he was also told that another fight could result in permanent expulsion.

Reacting to the negative response, the Mesa Public School District released a statement saying it "does not condone the choice of in-school discipline given these students, regardless of their acceptance or willingness to participate," and will be reviewing the matter with the school's principal.

[photo via Tumblr]