Student suspended for saying ‘bless you’ after classmate sneezed

DYER COUNTY, Tenn. (CNN) — A young girl, who claims she was standing up for her religious beliefs in the classroom, was suspended after breaking a class rule of saying “bless you” after a classmate sneezed.

When Dyer County High School senior Kendra Turner said bless you to her classmate, she says her teacher told her that was for church.

“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right,” said Turner.

Turner says when she defended her actions, she was told to see an administrator. She says she finished the class period in in-school suspension.

Students sent WMC Action News 5’s Michael Clark a photo of the teacher’s white board that lists ‘bless you’ and other expressions that are banned as part of class rules.

It sparked discussion with Turner’s youth pastor Becky Winegardner last week at church.

“There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regard to their faith,” Pastor Becky Winegardner said.

Turner’s parents say the school leaders claim the outburst was a classroom distraction and that she shouted “bless you” across the room.

“This was something that had come up previously in the last few weeks just since the beginning of school and I shared with all of those students what their rights were,” added Winegardner.

Turner’s family met with school leaders Tuesday. They say the teacher claimed Turner was being disruptive and aggressive. Some classmates showed support Tuesday by wearing hand made bless you shirts.

Turner said she doesn’t want trouble for her teacher but says she’ll stand up for her faith.

“It’s alright to defend God and it’s our constitutional right because we have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” said Turner.

 

63 comments

  • Matt McDowall

    oh silly people – why don’t you get the other side of the story? Its called research.
    Firstly she wasn’t given an in school suspension and she wasn’t sent out of the classroom…she left on her own accord…AND she wasn’t punished for saying “God bless you”….Geesh! The teacher did admonish her for disrupting the classroom….

    So it sounds like a kid decided t have a hissy fit and blow things out of proportion…..Since we don’t know the specifics of this….it sounds more and more like, the teacher told her to be quiet when the classroom was meant to be.

    • Mike Smith

      Matt –
      So what? Did she not have the right to say “bless you” …regardless the volume level of her voice? If you some REAL thought to this matter, you would be drawn to the obvious conclusion that the teacher impopsed improper standards regarding specific language that “could and could not” be used in her classroom. In so doing, that teacher infringed upon the free speech rights of the student. That the student chose to speak loudly in defending her rights should not be looked down upon be the teacher, but encouraged!
      This PC world we now find ourselves in is beyond the pale. What next Matt …do you and those who think like you want teachers to demand that their students accept and parrot their positons, be they political or religious in nature? Have we come to the point that in order for young impressionable minds to marticulate, they must never challenge their teachers? What a sad world you liberal, atheists live. May God have mercy on your short-sidedness ….and “bless you”

  • jonklement

    Saying “bless you” after someone sneezes is a cultural tradition that goes back THOUSANDS of years, whether it’s of religious origin or not. Just about every language on Planet Earth has a custom of wishing the sneezing person good health, blessing, or some such. Saying “bless you” after someone sneezes is simply a THOUSANDS of years old cultural norm whether or not the person who says it really, actually has any religiousity about them. It’s just accepted good manners, culturally. The phrase may have started religiously, but it’s way beyond that in terms of being a cultural norm.

    • Steve

      My dad taught for 30+ years in public school in the 60’s through the 90’s. He felt his job was to teach and inspire. That seems to be an afterthought today. Teachers like the unnamed one here feel their job is to indoctrinate and control so as to produce robots who think like she does and act like she does. This is the culture created by tenure. She is accountable to no one and her union will stand up and defend her “right” to infringe the rights of her students.

  • Denise Richardson

    Yelling across the room during class is not appropriate regardless of whether you are yelling “Bless you” or “F#%k you”. You wouldn’t yell “Bless you” across the congregration during the pastor’s sermon, because it’s disrespectful and distracting. While the teacher’s ban on specific words and phrases is also inappropriate and I understand what the student is trying to accomplish, the student is in the wrong. Fight your battles, but do it right.

  • Jenna

    Personally I can’t see anyone YELLING “Bless You” across the room. So unless this was an auditorium, this teacher must be super sensitive to someone raising his/her voice enough to SAY “Bless You” across a classroom!!

    • zan

      Yeah, Jenna, actually I CAN see a snotty, disruptive, bratty teenager yelling ‘Bless You’ to cause trouble and get attention and cause a scene. Appears you haven’t been in a high school classroom lately? They’re animals. I’d also seriously believe the teacher over the student because teenagers LIE (shocking, I know!).

      Stop acting oppressed, Christians. YOU’RE NOT. Stop it.

      • Doris Orvis

        I disagree with you and will say that most teenagers are good kids. I also will say that most people say bless you and hope the person is okay. And yes I have been in a high school classroom lately and saw and met some awesome teens! reality, teachers lie also as we have seen on national news. Go ahead, knock Christians, see where it gets you.

      • That guy

        I hear you, friend. I remember the night before my 20th birthday, I blacked out right at midnight. When I came to, I found that I was suddenly physically incapable of expressing untruths in any form. Being a man in my mid-thirties, you can obviously trust this to be fact, for as we all know, adults are incapable of lying.

      • candykisses77

        Zan you are exactly right! It’s sad that so many Christians are just WAITING for the day they can scream “religious persecution!” Teenage girls can be VERY obnoxious – how do I know? I WAS a teenage girl! I remember people yelling out in class all the time. I also highly doubt that the teacher told her not to say “godly things” in her classroom. This is totally ridiculous and blown waaayyy out of proportion.

    • Doris Orvis

      It’s an automatic response when someone sneezes to bless them so they won’t get sick and to wisper that would be stupid. I am thinking that the teacher wanted to justify her actions by saying she hollered bless you. This is just getting more ridiculous by the day! Some students might enjoy such distraction and go along with the teacher, just for some action! I hope that parents will step forward and stop this nonsense!

  • Stacie

    Here’s one that will shock you all. I had a teacher also ban the phrase “bless you” in class. At a religious school. It’s because it’s an outdated, unnecessary little phrase that is distracting to use in the middle of class. The phrase “bless you” after a sneeze was used hundreds of years ago because of superstitious beliefs about your soul. But now it’s 2014 and the phrase only exists to say, “hey, you had an involuntary bodily reaction, I’m going to acknowledge it for no reason at all!” Just pause and think for a moment why saying “bless you” is considered polite. And if we must utter a phrase after that bodily function, why don’t we do it during others? Farts, burps, coughs. Let’s bless them all!

      • zan

        It’s nice to know that Christians are so nice and welcoming and kind in their language. Jesus would be proud of you, Dog. So very proud.

    • Ben

      during the plague of 590 AD, “Pope Gregory I ordered unceasing prayer for divine intercession. Part of his command was that anyone sneezing be blessed immediately (“God bless you”), since sneezing was often the first sign that someone was falling ill with the plague. By 750 AD, it became customary to say “God bless you” as a response to one sneezing.

  • Dogmatix

    The school and the teacher had no authority to make this rule, and the students have no obligation to obey it. I’d like to see the teacher be forced to write the 1st amendment 50 times on the blackboard:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

  • Glenda Keath

    The sticking point for me is the fact as I have determined from what I`ve read, is that in order for it to have been “Godly Speaking” she would have had to say, God Bless You. Nowhere did I read that it was phrased in such a manner… As spoken “Bless You” it was left open for all perceptions, only to be decided by the person on the receiving end of the comment. I feel that it`s a very non prejudicial way of still being polite without offending anyone`s choice of beliefs (or lack there of). It to me would fall into the same category as A handshake, Smiling at a passing stranger or saying excuse me whichever applies to the given situation.

  • Hope Thornburg

    This is ridiculous. Nobody ever wants to talk about Jesus and prayer, UNTIL tragedy strikes…..hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, diseases, death……Then, and only then do they call on him for help and resolve. We need to wake up, and realize that God wants ALL of us, ALL the time. Not just during times of trouble, heartache, and sorrow. He loves us with an unconditional everlasting love, and he desires for us to reach out to him before life brings us down, then he’s already there to give us peace that passes all understanding in EVERY situation. Praise God, for HE and only HE is our salvation, and holds the key to our eternal life in heaven. Amen & amen!!!!

  • Flower teacher

    I am a born again Christian and I am a teacher. I allow my students to talk openly about their faith in class. This is REALITY – kids have different beliefs. I, however don’t allow my kids to YELL, SHOUT, or be a disruption. I understand that the teacher is a religious biggot, but I feel in this story the student was punished with an in-school suspension BECAUSE OF YELLING. (P.s. It’s illegal to not allow students voice their religious opinions)…but they must do so in a calm, collected, respectful manner.

  • Roger

    This is all about Political Correctness, the silencing of all dissent on fake moral high ground and the controlling of all speech. George Orwell detailed this in his book “1984” and it is rapidly being implemented in this country and world wide.

  • Nana's House and Garden

    Would she have been punished for saying “gesundheit,” which is German for “good health?” (I looked it up.) No, that is not on the banned phrase list, probably because it does not infer belief in God. If the teacher truly wanted to prevent disruption from people uttering something after every sneeze, then gesundheit would be on the list. There is an interesting little article on the history of wishing someone well after each sneeze. Every culture has its own expression. Even one in Arabic which praises Allah. That wouldn’t dare be banned. But that’s another subject.
    http://people.howstuffworks.com/sneezing.htm

  • Jequita

    As an atheist for separation of church and state, this is ridiculous, not what SoCaS means and frankly, it’s religious discrimination. She has every right to express her beliefs if they’re not interfering with anything. Hell she should be able to fricken pray to Mecca if she wants to. This does not help secular people’s reputation at ALL. -_-

  • ian sigler

    there are two problems here one is to bless some one is no more than wishing one no harm and the other is maybe we need big brother [ie;cameras] every where. Maybe there is already if not then to be fair put them every where and make it so any one any time can access the system scary huh
    .

  • InalienableWrights

    A CLEAR VIOLATION OF THIS GIRLS FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTED RIGHTS:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  • Darrell

    Civil Rights infraction.
    The Parents need to bring a personal Civil Rights Infringment suit against the teacher and principal.
    Plus a companion suit against the school system suing them for hiring personel who bully their students.
    This kind of intimidation and indoctrination will not stop until parents push back against these
    liberal – progressive-socialists who have infiltrated our schools and government.

  • Michele

    Apparently some missed this part of the story “Turner says when she defended her actions, she was told to see an administrator. She says she finished the class period in in-school suspension.” I’m sure she didn’t yell or disrupt class, and I personally don’t see anything wrong with saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes. But everyone is entitled to their opinion and I don’t mean to disrespect anyone. I’m just pointing out that she WAS told to see an administrator and she DID serve an In-school suspension.

  • mo

    The reason for saying bless you is such an archaic concept. No one needs to be blessed for having something irritating their nasal cavity. Sheesh. Keep quiet in class is the teacher tell you.

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