Every religion has their sacred rituals and this teacher crossed a sensitive boundary when she told a Catholic student to remove his Ash Wednesday Cross
Being a teacher means that you get the opportunity to teach impressionable minds to be accepting of everyone's cultures and traditions. However, this teacher made a mistake when she asked a Catholic fourth-grade student to wash off the Ash Wednesday cross from his forehead, according to Fox13. She was even placed on administrative leave after the incident.
William McLeod, a 9-year-old fourth grader from Valley View Elementary school, Bountiful, Utah had recieved his ash marking, applied by a priest in the shape of the cross. He had had this done during his Catholic Mass, in honor of the Catholic religious day that marked the beginning of the Lenten season, before heading to school. He told Fox 13 that he had been the only student with the ashes applied.
“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 said.
His teacher, Moana Patterson, later pulled him aside and forced him to wash off the ash, he said. He mentioned that he had tried to explain to her why he wanted to keep the cross on his forehead but apparently, his teacher wouldn't have any of it. So he had no choice but to take it off.
“She took me aside, and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” McLeod said. “She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”
Karen Fisher, McLeod's grandmother, said “He went to see the school’s psychologist crying. He was embarrassed.” She also mentioned that her grandson's teacher had done all of this in front of his classmates. She told Fox13 that she had been "pretty upset" about the whole thing. “I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, 'No,'” Fisher adds.
This incident at the school was taken seriously and an investigation had been initiated to see whether any disciplinary action would be levied against Patterson, said Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams. For the time being, she isn't teaching, he said. “The actions were unacceptable,” Williams said. “No student should ever be asked or required to remove an ash cross from his or her forehead.” Adding to that, he said, “Why that even came up, I have no idea. When a student comes into school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say, 'Please take off.'"
Patterson was then called into a meeting with the principal and the school board regarding this event, said Williams. It was after that meeting that she called Fisher to apologize.
Fisher, who stays with her grandson said that Patterson had given a handwritten note and a candy bar to McLeod as an apology.
According to NyPost, Patterson didn't promptly send an email asking for comments about the incident, and Williams mentioned that he didn't know her religious affiliation.
In the state of Utah, Catholics are a minority with only 10% of the population (330,000 people) living there, according to Jean Hill at the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
“We understand that mistakes happen,” Hill said in a statement. “The diocese is also very grateful to the young student who used the situation to educate his teacher about a part of his faith and its importance to him.” “Learning about one another is one way we build community across religious, political, racial, ethnic and other borders,” Hill said.
Fisher mentioned that the teacher had even asked if she could reapply the ashes herself. “I told her that’s not how it works,” Fisher said.
Williams stated that a member of the school board was a Catholic Deacon who came to the school to reapply the ashes. “I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it will.”