One school district in Utah is on clean-up duty after a teacher made a fourth-grade student wipe the cross of ashes off his forehead, which he received at church to commemorate Ash Wednesday.
When William — a Catholic — arrived at school, he quickly noticed he was the only one wearing an ash cross, according to KSTU-TV, so he was answering his peers’ questions about the religious symbol.
“A lot of students asked me what it is,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday.’”
Soon after he got to school, William’s teacher came up to him, gave him a disinfectant wipe, and told him to scrub the cross off his forehead. The young student tried to explain the significance of the symbol, but his teacher — who called the cross “inappropriate” — didn’t listen.
“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” William remembered. “She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”
Responding to the issue, Chris Williams, a spokesperson for the Davis School District, said he has “no idea” why the teacher even acknowledged William’s cross, much less forced him to remove it.
“When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead,” Williams explained, “it’s not something we say, ‘Please take off.’”
He said the school district is investigating the issue.
William’s grandmother, Karen Fisher, said she received a call from the teacher who forced her grandson to remove the cross of ashes from his forehead. She asked the teacher if she had “read the Constitution with the First Amendment.”
Her response, Fisher said, was “no.”
“I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again,” Fisher said of the entire ordeal. “I don’t think it will.”
For her part, the fourth grader’s teacher apologized later in the day with a note and a bag of candy. In her message, the teacher wrote, “William, I am so sorry.”