Utah teacher forces boy to wipe Ash Wednesday cross off his forehead

An elementary school teacher may face disciplinary action after she allegedly made a young student wipe a religious symbol off his head in front of his class.

William McLeod, a 4th-grade student at Valley View Elementary School in Bountiful, Utah, told KSTU that when he arrived at school on Ash Wednesday, he was the only student wearing an ash cross, a symbol which designates the start of the Lenten season, on his forehead.

“A lot of students asked me what it is," he told the station. "I said, 'I'm Catholic. It's the first day of Lent. It's Ash Wednesday.'"

However, soon after McLeod went to class, he claims he was confronted by his teacher, who made him remove the symbol.

"She took me aside and she said, 'You have to take it off,'" he said.

McLeod claims he tried to explain the religious significance of the cross to the instructor, but that she ultimately told him "it’s inappropriate." 

"She gave me a disinfection wipe ... and she made me wipe it off," he recounted.

The young student says he was embarrassed by the incident, as he was forced to clean off his head in front of his friends and peers.

McLeod's grandmother, Karen Fisher, told KTSU that she was "pretty upset" after learning of the incident from the school principal.

"I asked (the principal) if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment and she said, 'No' and 'Ohhhh,'" Fisher recounted. 

Chris Williams, a spokesperson for the district Davis School District, issued an apology to the boy and his family over the ordeal, stating that students of all faiths should be made to feel welcome.

"Why that even came up, I have no idea," Williams said. "When a student comes into school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say 'Please take off.'"

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