Utah teacher on leave after making boy remove ash cross on Ash Wednesday

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  • CougarForever Holladay, Utah
    March 10, 2019 12:23 a.m.

    I don't know the background of the teacher involved but it would not surprise me if she has never lived in an area where Catholics constitute a large proportion of the population (I say this as someone who was in this category until early adulthood) or she would have been aware of how out-of-bounds her actions were. I would guess that at least 20% of those working at a hospital in Houston where I did training had an ash cross on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday and one year in which I traveled on that day I would guess that at least that percentage of people in the airport in Houston had an ash cross on their foreheads.

    One hopes that this will be a good learning experience for this teacher and others.

  • Betcha Waltham, MA
    March 9, 2019 8:46 a.m.

    Schools have been taking away religious freedom for a very long time, you cannot pray, you cannot recite the pledge of allegiance, if one religion is punished then all should be punished, there should not be an acception,,, I feel so sorry for teachers , they are damed if they do and they are damed if they don't, no wonder we can't get people to want to be teachers any more... and it is the children who suffer.

  • rubbergoose Bountiful, UT
    March 8, 2019 11:05 p.m.

    After telling him this was a religious symbol she still humiliated him, had him was his face and sent him to the principals office in tears. She probably should be let go and given another job in school administration. Quite serious.

    March 8, 2019 5:42 p.m.

    "I guess if teachers and school officials “care less” about dress codes. . ."
    Nothing in the article references a dress code. It was a judgment call on the part of one teacher.
    "Isn’t it funny that nothing was mentioned about this kid going to school last year with a ash cross on his head."
    Obvious possibility (although only one of several): kid had ashes last year, and the teacher did not make an issue of it.
    Other item: some comments here seem to assume that it's only Roman Catholics impose ashes. Eastern Orthodox also do, and some Protestant congregations (not denominations) do.

  • Kaladin Northern, CO
    March 8, 2019 3:44 p.m.

    @rlynn - I agree that it is a big deal as we should be able to wear our religions without ridicule or censorship. The big difference between this and the baker issue you bring up is the apology, acceptance thereof, and moving on. The initial big deal was made of it to educate people, the school responded saying it won't happen again, and we move on. No lawsuits, no forcing the issue, etc. That's why people aren't as up-in-arms about it.

  • UtahBruin Eagle Mountain, UT
    March 8, 2019 3:27 p.m.


    I guess if teachers and school officials “care less” about dress codes.

    Then why have them? Maybe schools should then remove the policy if it’s not cared about or being enforced. Maybe, just maybe this teacher wouldn’t have said anything at all if that were the case.

    My wife is a teacher, and had to ask if she could say “Merry Christmas” since they were not allowed to say they were having a Christmas Party. They had to tell parents in home notes it was a “Holiday Party.” Ironically enough, they had to stick with Holiday Party, but could tell the kids Merry Christmas.

    This is what is wrong with this country. People are way to easily offended, they are looking for it. And I even think people do and say things on purpose just to give themselves something to complain about.

    Isn’t it funny that nothing was mentioned about this kid going to school last year with a ash cross on his head. If he did, why did the mother not say “we have done it since kindergarten and nobody ever said a thing”. Instead she goes to the school and media making a big deal about it. Sounds fishy to me.

    Nothing to see here folks, let’s keep the traffic moving. Attention seeker only.

  • DeDee76 Orem, UT
    March 8, 2019 2:47 p.m.

    What would Jesus say/do? He is the ultimate judge. He can see beyond our outward mistakes. He sees our hearts. Let's leave it up to him. Because from some of the comments made we are all pretty much damned to hell for just being different. God bless us everyone.

  • rlynn Brandon, FL
    March 8, 2019 2:47 p.m.

    With all the talk of Religious Freedom Act, recently, the comments are treating this as a minor mistake by the teacher. Isn’t this a religious freedom issue just like the the Colorado baker’s desire to follow his deeply held beliefs by not baking a cake for a Gay Marriage? Perhaps the teacher would like to away all the crosses that children wear or maybe the wearing of a yarmulke. This a big deal and no just a simple apology is not good enough.

  • JSB , 00
    March 8, 2019 2:46 p.m.

    I think one thing that could resolve some of these issues is to have school uniforms like they have in Europe. There are some real advantages: Uniforms cost less because students don't feel pressured to get a whole new set of clothes. Students who can't afford real nice clothes would not be looked down upon by other students. No problem with clothes with provocative logos and filthy words on them. No immodesty problems. I'm sure a cross on the forehead would not be an issue.

  • PhineasGauge St Paul, MN
    March 8, 2019 2:34 p.m.

    Unless you have lived under a rock your entire life, you should realize by now that forcing someone to remove a religious symbol from their person is likely illegal and definitely a bad idea. I imagine there would be more anger on here if the religious item asked to be removed were garments.

  • Husker2 , 00
    March 8, 2019 2:20 p.m.

    I can't understand why the teacher even cared about the ash cross. As a high school teacher, I see hundreds of dress code violations every day and our administration couldn't care less. I gave up trying to correct them years ago. I would bet other kids in the class were violating the dress/appearance code as well, so why call out one kid?

  • BYUalum South Jordan, UT
    March 8, 2019 2:02 p.m.

    When Martha McCallom actually had this boy and mother on her tv show (FOX) last night and was bemoaning the fact that this was the greatest grievance in the world, I screamed at the television set. Have we gone completely nuts in this country?

    The teacher made a mistake, apologized for her actions, let's move on.

    When a Congresswoman openly cries out anti-semitism in the House (yesterday) and decries and berates Israel and Jews, then I think we can be more than a little disturbed.

    Seriously, we have some real problems right now. This was an innocent mistake, and that teacher apologized and probably really feels badly. Whereas, Omar hasn't said a thing in taking back her rhetoric, and 100 Dems back her actions and words!

  • sashabill , CA
    March 8, 2019 12:50 p.m.

    People routinely wear cross necklaces or pendants in public. So, what's wrong with an ash cross on one's forehead?

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    March 8, 2019 11:28 a.m.

    Add I understand it, dress codes in schools restrict what kind of messages and symbols you can wear on clothing. Imagine, for example, a student wearing a librarian T-shirt praying a vivid picture of artist Andres Serrano's "Immersion" on it. Would that be allowed? Or would believers, including LDS, be offended at such a display of a student's destiny held beliefs?

    How is this different? Just because it is not on clothing, but on the forehead, it is OK?

    Could a (nonbelieving) student wear a temporary tattoo of "Immersion" on his forehead and get away with it?

    Where should the lines be drawn here?

  • UtahBruin Eagle Mountain, UT
    March 8, 2019 11:00 a.m.


    The state and school do it just fine an within the laws of government and state. Seminary is an elective class taken, yet not recognized by the school. The school allows an elective class period. The student then chooses what they do with that period. Take a school offered elective, or take a free period and choose on their own to take Seminary. The school does not excuse students for Seminary activities, Seminary does not excuse students for school activities. So Utah doesn't do anything to separate students by religion at all, ever. It is ignorant to assume something where the knowledge of a topic is inaccurate.

    I very well may be wrong, but I highly doubt a teacher is asking students what their faith is at the beginning of the school year. There would be huge lawsuits if this was taking place. Isn't it funny that if it was happening that no law suits have been filed. By any member of any religion. I am going to call it false.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    March 8, 2019 10:56 a.m.

    "Yes, what the teacher did was insensitive. But she did the right thing and apologized. Now let's move on. No wonder Utah struggles to hire teachers..."

    If Utah is hiring teachers that have no clue what Ash Wednesday is, nor understands the symbol of the cross on someones head that day, the problem is Utah is hiring teachers who are fundamentally under educated.

    This is akin to teacher telling a Jew to not wear a shawl, Ash Wednesday is a deeply sacred day to catholics. Being clueless is not an excuse.

    The other day I saw an Amazon delivery driver pulled off at a gas station on his pray carpet saying his evening prayers. It was awesome to see a display of faith like that. In NC it is not uncommon to see families saying a prayer before they eat at restaurants. Have yet to see it in Utah. We could learn a lot from these others people of faith...

  • citygrrl SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    March 8, 2019 10:35 a.m.

    As a Catholic who grew up in SLC and attended public school I can sympathize with this young student. I admire him for visibly showing a mark of his faith. I would never have had the guts but back in the 1960s and '70s I encountered a lot of hostility and condescension from LDS students when they learned I was Catholic. I had no desire to draw more attention to my religious minority status.

    That said, it seems the teacher and the administrators realize their mistake. The student and the family are forgiving. Let's move on...

  • Selznik Saint George, UT
    March 8, 2019 10:24 a.m.

    Many of the comments here seem to treat this as a minor misstep on the part of the teacher. Isn’t this a religious freedom issue on par with the Colorado baker’s desire to follow his deeply held beliefs?

  • Weston Jurney West Jordan, UT
    March 8, 2019 10:20 a.m.

    It looks to me like young William McLeod is the only person in this whole kerfuffle who has acted appropriately. When asked to remove the cross, he removed it. When the matter was explained to teacher and administration, he got a replacement.

    And when the teacher apologized, he accepted.

  • amartel1975 Las Vegas, NV
    March 8, 2019 10:16 a.m.

    Although at first glance this may appear horrible, I suspect this was done more out of ignorance than malice or wanting to be religion neutral. I grew up in Utah and never knew any Catholics that did this. The first time I saw someone with ashes on their forehead was when I was 32 and someone had to explain to me what it was all about.

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    March 8, 2019 9:28 a.m.

    The article doesn't even mention; but it is a foregone conclusion that the reason the teacher assumed such a cross was inappropriate was because of "no tolerance" policies to dress and grooming standards or policies against signs and symbols being worn.

    Unfortunately, there are many sings and symbols that are used for deeply held beliefs and religious practice. It is the same as teachers insisting that hijabs are removed because of a policy of no hats.

    But, my grip isn't even about their inability to recognize religious symbols; but their inability to allow individuality and other needs.

    For instance I was harassed on multiple occasions when I wore a coat to school. I was skin and bones; and had no tolerance for the cold, yet the schools I went to rarely heated their buildings in the winter beyond 60 degrees. I freeze in 60 degree temperatures; and wore my coat all the time. But was harassed because it didn't fit in their "policies" to allow a coat indoors. Further I was forced to go out of the building in the dead of winter even with the coat I would freeze when outside.

    Schools NEED to allow individuality; ask a student why he wears a coat or a cross; and let it be!

  • Cheesecake Beaver, UT
    March 8, 2019 9:26 a.m.

    Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

    Yes, what the teacher did was insensitive. But she did the right thing and apologized. Now let's move on.

    No wonder Utah struggles to hire teachers...

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    March 8, 2019 9:21 a.m.

    @Good Judgement
    The prayer that isn't allowed is school led prayer. After all, if kids couldn't pray independently, what would they do a minute before an exam?

    " Why did the parents assume everyone knows about Ash Wednesday?"

    When I was in undergrad I knew virtually nobody that went to church, but many of them went on Ash Wednesday. It's pretty high up there for Catholics in particular as one of the days (along with Christmas and Easter) that casual followers make sure to show up at. Like 40% of Americans are part of denominations that have Ash Wednesday services so generally speaking across the country virtually everyone would know, or at least there'd quickly be other students in the class who could chime in and mention it.

  • Semi-PRO Brigham City, UT
    March 8, 2019 9:13 a.m.

    Why isn't this article in the "FAITH" section of the DN?

    Maybe the DN doesn't see it as faith promoting?

  • Say No to BO Mapleton, UT
    March 8, 2019 9:07 a.m.

    Her apology message: "William, I am so sorry about what happened today. I hope we can move forward from this,"

    May I suggest the teacher learn how to apologize. Where is her acknowledgement of her mistake? Where is she taking personal responsibility?

    There is no "we" in the problem. The boy doesn't need to "move forward from" anything.

    How about this instead: William, I am sorry for what I did. I didn't understand the sacred nature of the ashes on your forehead. It was all my fault. Please forgive me.

  • 65TossPowerTrap Salmon, ID
    March 8, 2019 8:37 a.m.

    The teacher doesn't need to be fired, but she does need to walk the shame walk of sensitivity training.

    "If you consider the above, it is possible you will understand what group I am referencing. . ."

    No we don't - why don't you just tell us what religious group keeps you awake at night.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:36 a.m.

    That just so disrespectful. And ignorant.

    In order to be respected, we need to respect others... and understand others. This was not that.

  • TJ Eagle Mountain, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:35 a.m.

    Another ridiculous over-reaction by a paranoid society ruled by mock political correctness. The teacher was likely following district guidelines(to the best of her judgement) to remove distractions from the classroom so as not to disrupt the class.
    Suspending the teacher is pure political stupidity. We, as a society continue to teach the wrong lessons and send the wrong messages to our youth. This is a very minor incident and should have been handled with a private meeting and ended there. Instead, the media blows it out of proportion and makes it a statewide or maybe now a nationwide "flavor of the minute" fiasco.


  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:34 a.m.

    @Something to think about - Ogden, UT
    March 8, 2019 7:01 a.m.
    Religion in Utah's public schools has always been a touchy subject. Members of all faiths walk a fine line as a result."

    What? Utah separates kids by religion everyday when the majority of kids leave the school to attend seminary. Many teachers, especially in rural areas, ask their class, at the beginning of the school year, who is/is not LDS. It's wrong, but in a one party, religious state, it's OK. There is no separation of church and state in Utah public schools.

  • Out of the Blue Layton, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:30 a.m.

    If only more of us could be like this boy. Don't be ashamed for what you believe. Allow yourself to feel hurt. See the goodness in people who won't see your point of view. Educate. Forgive.

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:27 a.m.

    A simple note from the parents to teacher would have avoided this. I do not believe this teacher intentionally violated the students religious rights. Yes he told the teacher but let’s remember the teacher had a class to take care of. I guess the teacher could have made the whole class wait while the parents were called to confirm. Why did the parents assume everyone knows about Ash Wednesday? There are many religions with many traditions. The parents are better equipped to explain to the teacher than the child.

  • RiDal Sandy, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:26 a.m.

    I think this was almost certainly just an act of simple ignorance by the teacher. It should not result in harsh punishment.
    But this also reveals the commonly-accept levels of ignorance that now pervade society,. It also reveals the assumption that religious symbols need to be suppressed in public, rather than recognizing the true meaning of the Constitutional right: a right to **Free Expression of Religion**.

    So we do need to "make a big deal" out of this, just not personally against the one teacher. To focus on one teacher is to miss the fundamental point.

  • Good Judgment Salt Lake City, UT
    March 8, 2019 8:24 a.m.

    You can’t have prayer in the classroom but you can have an ash cross. I don’t condone what the teacher did, but I can understand someone being confused.

    We don’t need to burn the teacher at the stake. She has apologized and the student has forgiven her. Let’s all practice the same Christian attitude the student has demonstrated.

  • drich Green River, Utah
    March 8, 2019 8:23 a.m.

    What ever happened to the separation of church and state?
    There is a difference in teaching about world religions and practicing them in public schools.

  • opinion 47 SOUTH JORDAN, UT
    March 8, 2019 7:48 a.m.

    I went to a Catholic school as a Mormon and every day was stressful when it came to religion, but guess what? My parents put me in that situation and it’s ok, i grew up fine and so wil this kid.

  • Something to think about Ogden, UT
    March 8, 2019 7:01 a.m.

    Religion in Utah's public schools has always been a touchy subject. Members of all faiths walk a fine line as a result. It's a unique environment/mindset from the other three states I've lived in.

  • emb Pleasant Grove, UT
    March 8, 2019 7:00 a.m.