A Utah teacher is apologizing after she asked a fourth-grade student to wipe a religious symbol off his forehead this week.
William McLeod, who is Catholic, told KTSU he went to Valley View Elementary School with an ash cross on his forehead on Wednesday.
He was the only student wearing the symbol, which symbolizes the start of Lent. He explained:
“A lot of students asked me what it is. I said, ‘I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday.'”
McLeod went to class and was stopped by his teacher, who told him that the ash cross was “inappropriate” and that he’d need to remove it.
The student tried to explain why he had the ashes on his forehead, but she didn’t listen, he said:
“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off.’ She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”
The boy said other students were watching the confrontation.
The school principal found out about the incident and called the child’s grandmother, Karen Fisher, who was “pretty upset.”
She also spoke to the teacher. Fisher told KTSU:
“I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment and she said, ‘No’ and ‘Ohhhh.'”
The teacher, who may face disciplinary action, later wrote an apology to the student and gave him candy.
Chris Williams, a spokesperson for Davis School District, said he’s unsure why the teacher asked the student to remove the ash cross as it wasn’t against policy. He said:
“Why that even came up, I have no idea. When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say ‘Please take off.'”
A deacon who works for the school district later placed another ash cross on the child.
Fisher said she hopes this will be the first and last time something like this happens in the school district.