William McLeod joined his family and church to receive a cross on his forehead on Ash Wednesday in honor of the beginning of Lent and the Easter season. But after noticing he was the only person in class who had the religious symbol, he was approached by his teacher and asked to take it off.
According to KSTU, the student was asked to explain the symbol before being told that it was “inappropriate.”
“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” William told KSTU. “She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.” The fourth grader went on to say that his classmates were all watching as the teacher removed the ashes, which added to his embarrassment. Now the district is calling the teacher’s actions unacceptable.
“We are sorry about what happened and apologize to the student and the family for the teacher’s actions. The actions were unacceptable. No student should ever be asked or required to remove an ash cross from his or her forehead,” a statement from the district’s spokesperson, Chris Williams, reads. “We take the matter very seriously and are investigating the situation. The teacher is currently on administrative leave.”
Williams added that the district’s Director of Educational Equity is also an ordained Catholic deacon and was contacted immediately after the student’s family was to serve William McLeod by applying an ash cross to his forehead. The family agreed and was reportedly “grateful for his offer.”
The teacher has since handwritten an apology to William and given him candy, according to KSTU. The student’s grandmother Karen Fisher told the local Utah outlet that she hopes it’s the last time something like this happens. “I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again,” she said. “I don’t think it will.”
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