A Utah elementary school teacher apologized to one of her Catholic students Wednesday -- and may still face disciplinary action -- after she forced him to wash off the Ash Wednesday cross on his forehead, the boy’s family said.
William McLeod, a fourth grader at Valley View Elementary School, received the ash marking -- made in the shape of a cross and applied by a priest -- for the Catholic religious day that signals the start of the Lenten season and then went to school in Bountiful, Fox 13 reported. He told Fox 13 he was the only student who had ashes.
“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,’” William said.
William's teacher, who was not identified, later approached him and forced him to wash off the symbol, he said. William reportedly attempted to explain why he wanted to keep the ash cross on his forehead, but he said his teacher wouldn't listen.
“She took me aside, and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” William said. “She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”
William’s grandmother, Karen Fisher, told Fox 13 she was “pretty upset” by the incident and received a call from the school’s principal and the teacher who ordered the cross to be washed off.
“I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, 'No,'” Fisher said.
Davis School District’s spokesman Chris Williams apologized for the incident and said an investigation is being conducted.
“Why that even came up, I have no idea,” Williams said. “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say, 'Please take off.'"
William’s family said the teacher apologized with a handwritten note and candy.
“I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it will.”