By Currents News Staff
A Utah teacher is apologizing after she didn’t allow one of her fourth-grade students to wear a religious symbol.
Like millions of Catholics and Christians around the world, William McLeod received an ash cross on his forehead to commemorate Ash Wednesday, March 6. The boy’s teacher, Moana Patterson, made him wipe it off when he got to school.
“They put it on your forehead to show holiness,” said McLeod. He was the only student in his class with an ash cross on his forehead.
“A lot of students asked me what it is,” the student said. “I said I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday – to celebrate being closer to God.”
But the cross didn’t stay on William’s forehead very long.
“The teacher walked over and said like ‘what is that’ and I was like it’s Ash Wednesday and I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent’ and she was like ‘no, its inappropriate, go take it off’,” he said.
The school’s principal then called the student’s grandmother as soon as she learned of the incident.
“I was pretty upset,” said Karen Fisher. The teacher also called.
“I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment and she said ‘no’ and ‘ohhhh’,” Fisher said.
The Davis School District says what happened is not acceptable.
“Why that even came up, I have no idea,” said Chris Williams, a spokesperson for the Davis School District. “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead it’s not something we say please take off.”
Later in the day, McLeod received candy and a handwritten message from his teacher.
“It said: ‘William, I am so sorry. I hope we can move things from here,’” he said.“I told her I accept her apology because she’s a really nice teacher.”
He and his family hope this will serve as a valuable learning experience.
“I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again and I don’t think it will,” said Fisher.
Patterson offered a public apology and said it was all a misunderstanding.
“I had no idea it was a religious symbol,” she said. Adding that she did not intend to disrespect anyone’s faith.
“My entire life has been centered around respecting diversity,” she said.
But McLeod’s father is not buying Patterson’s statement about thinking it was dirt. He says she knew it was a sacred symbol because his son told her.
“It’s pretty serious where somebody is treated like that for their religion,” said Gary McLeod. “He explained to her it was Ash Wednesday, it was from church and he was not allowed to take it off.”
The unidentified teacher has been removed from the classroom and put on administrative leave.