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Utah student forced to remove Ash Wednesday cross in class

SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah teacher is apologizing after she didn't allow one of her students to wear a religious symbol on his face at school.

Like millions of Catholics and other Christians around the world, William McLeod received an ash cross on his forehead to commemorate Ash Wednesday.

But the boy's teacher made him wipe it off when he got to school.

William was the only student in his class with an ash cross on his forehead.

"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," said William. 

Ash Wednesday is the start of the Easter season.

"The teacher walked over and said, like, 'What is that?' and I was, like, 'It's Ash Wednesday and I'm Catholic. It's the first day of Lent,' and (she) was, like, 'No it's inappropriate. Go take it off," said William.

His attempt to explain the meaning of the symbol fell on deaf ears.

"She took me aside and she said you have to take it off. So she gave me a de-infection wipe -- whatever they are called -- and she made me wipe it off," said William. 

He says it happened as many of his classmates watched.

"They saw the teacher wipe it off because they wiped it off in front of all my friends," said Willliam. "I felt like, really bad."

The school's principal called his grandmother as soon as she learned of the incident.

"I was pretty upset," said Karen Fisher, William's grandmother. 

The teacher also called.

"I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment and she said, 'No and ohhhh," said Fisher. 

The Davis School District said what happened is not acceptable.

"Why that even came up, I have no idea," said Chris Williams, a spokesperson from Davis School District. 

It wants students of all faiths to feel welcomed.

"When a student comes into school with ashes on their forehead, it's not something we say please take off," said Williams. 

Later in the day, McLeod received candy and a handwritten message from his teacher.

"It said 'William, I am so sorry, I hope we can move things from here,'" said William. 

McLeod and his family hope this will serve as a valuable learning experience.

"I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again and I don't think it will," said Fisher. 

The school district is taking this incident seriously and conducting an investigation.

The teacher could face disciplinary action.


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