A high school senior in Tennessee says she was given an in-school suspension for saying "bless you" to a classmate who had sneezed.
Kendra Turner, a student at Dyer County High School, told WMC-TV that when her teacher told her she had broken a class rule against invoking religious terms, she complained.
“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class," Turner said, "and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right. ... It’s all right to defend God and it’s our constitutional right, because we have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech."
Turner was sent to the administrator's office, where she finished the class period with an "in-school suspension," WMC said.
According to Turner, school officials told her parents that their daughter had shouted "bless you" and had disrupted the class.
Local pastor Becky Winegardner said this wasn't the first time Turner's teacher had clashed with students over religion.
“There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regard to their faith,” Winegardner told WMC. “This was something that had come up previously in the last few weeks just since the beginning of school, and I shared with all of those students what their rights were.”
Turner said that "bless you" is listed among several other banned terms on the teacher's whiteboard.
"'Bless you,' 'hang out,' 'my bad,' 'dumb,' 'stupid,' 'stuff' and just things like that," Turner told WBBJ-TV.
She added that after her suspension, fellow students wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Bless You" to support her.
The Dyer County Schools superintendent's office could not immediately be reached for comment. According to WBBJ, school officials declined "multiple requests to talk on camera about the incident, but said [the incident] has been blown way out of proportion."