A fourth grade teacher at Valley View Elementary School in Bountiful, Utah apologized to one of her students this week after demanding that the boy wash an Ash Wednesday cross off his forehead. But while the teacher – unidentified publicly as of Friday – expressed contrition for her mistake, she may still face disciplinary action for what amounts to a fairly serious violation of the First Amendment.
The boy in question is named William McLeod, and he went to school on Ash Wednesday with the ash markings on his face to celebrate the Catholic start of Lent. In an interview with Fox 13 in Utah, McLeod acknowledged that the markings, which were applied by a priest, drew a lot of questions and attention from his fellow students.
“A lot of students asked me what it is,” McLeod said. “I said, ‘I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday.’”
McLeod’s teacher, apparently either unaware of or unfriendly towards Catholic traditions, told the boy that he needed to wash off the cross.
“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” McLeod said. “She gave me a disinfection wipe and she made me wipe it off.”
This drew outrage from the boy’s family. His grandmother told the local news that she spoke to the child’s teacher in the immediate aftermath of the decision.
“I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, ‘No,’” explained the grandmother.
The school district has said that the teacher has apologized but that there will be a full investigation of the incident.
We’re not exactly experts on Catholic traditions ourselves, but we’re pretty sure we could figure out quickly why a boy was wearing ashes on his forehead on Ash Wednesday. It’s not clear why William McLeod’s teacher was unwilling to listen to his reasonable explanation for the symbolic display, but it’s unacceptable and worthy of disciplinary action. We need teachers in the system who respect and understand religious freedom.
Another thing: When a boy in Florida got in trouble for refusing to stand for the national anthem, the liberal media went into spasms of righteous conviction. We haven’t heard a whisper about this story outside of a handful of conservative outlets, though. How interesting. If William McLeod had written #BlackLivesMatter on his forehead, we suspect the Washington Post might have been more compelled to cover the story.