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Student suspended for saying ‘bless you’ after classmate sneezed

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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.



  • 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”

      • Edward Webber

        What you don’t seem to comprehend is there are no freedom of speech rights in the classroom. You can’t just jabber away about whatever you want. It’s called disrupting. Did you honestly think you could?

        Second, so you even realize how ignorant and pointless it is to use the phrase bless you? The phrase came about during the plague, when someone coughing, not sneezing, meant they had likely contracted the plague and were going to die. The phrase was meant as an “I’m sorry you’re dying” well wish.

        Tell me, what are the odds of someone sneezing having the plague and dying? You being stupid about history or constitutional rights and when they apply does not trump the facts of reality.

        Next time you say bless you to a sneeze, know how utterly idiotic you’re being, like performing CPR on someone because they exhaled. It’s inappropriate and unwelcome.

    • Chris Sky

      you might have had a leg to stand on, if the ridiculous teacher didn’t ADMIT to having a “banned phrases” list and have “bless you” on the list. But nice try justifying insane behaviour!

      • Kimberly Church

        Exactly. While there is separation of chuch and state, there is also DISCRIMINATION. While a teacher cant defend faith in school, they also can’t tear it down. PERIOD!Being in a position of power over students who are impressionable, a teacher MUST NOT promote his/her regards toward faith

    • steve

      Also Mohammed please help us, since this is a democracy. And Odin, Zeus and Shiva. Why is your “god” the only one?

      • shaddup

        You sir… are an idiot. If you really want to be such a pedantic jerk, then you left a few out too. Why did you stop at only listing three? Go sit in a hole somewhere and just wait.

  • 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.

    • Edward Webber

      It began during the plague, which was hardly thousands of years ago. Learn some history before you pretend to teach it.

      Also, is only custom to those in our from Europe. Why? Because that’s where the plague happened.

      Don’t let facts get in the way of you pretending you know something about history or religion.

      • Wade

        Maybe it’s you that needs to learn history, and specifically what plaque would that be you reference? Would that be the plaque Plague of Athens, a devastating epidemic which hit Athens in ancient Greece in 430 BC?

        Or maybe it was the Antonine Plague, an ancient pandemic in 165–189 AD brought to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East

        Or maybe it was the Plague of Justinian, a pandemic in 541–542 AD in the Byzantine Empire
        The Black Death.

        Or maybe it was the Eurasian pandemic beginning in the 14th century.

        Or was it the Great Plague of London, a massive outbreak in England that killed an estimated 20% of London’s population in 1665–1666.

        Or maybe it was the Plague Riot, a riot in Moscow in 1771 caused by an outbreak of bubonic plague.

        Or was it the Third Pandemic, a major plague pandemic that began in China in 1855?

        Or was it the Great Northern War plague outbreak, a European outbreak in the early 18th century?
        So yes it could of been all the way back to 430BC, which is defiantly thousands of years ago.

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • Jenna

    Do you honestly believe this girl, or anyone would YELL “Bless You” to someone after they sneeze? And let’s pretend for a moment that she did. For that second it took to say it, was less of a distraction than the teacher’s hissy fit over the whole thing.

    • Edward Webber

      Agenda, you mean not wanting someone else’s beliefs forced upon them in public school?

      Now who is it who wants their God story forced into public education? Help me out here. . It’s on the tip of my tongue. .

      That’s an agenda.

      The day I can forcefully teach science in your church is the day you can force your imaginary friend into public school.

      • Mike Smith

        Zan –
        Belittling someone’s spelling is very childish. I suggest that as one of the unwashed Obama-believers still living with your Mom and Dad that you get a life!

    • Steph

      Zan was commenting on your grammar. You should have used the word “who’s” instead of “whose” because they mean two different things.

  • 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!

    • dog

      Stacie ,, your just as stupid as zan,,,, are you both ateishts?? Well even if your not you also sound highly stupid so GOD BLESS YOU TOO

      • 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.

    • BP5117

      So wha’ts next.. people wont be able to sneeze because its a disruption. also when people fart,burp or couph a phrase is uttered. EXCUSE ME!

    • Edward Webber

      Your comment is far too rational to be accepted by those wanting to find a way to claim persecution by “the man”. They can’t pretend their rights are being savaged if it bless you is also not allowed in religious schools for the same reason it isn’t allowed in public schools.

      A rational reason to ban disruptions is counter to the persecution complex of the religious. How can they pretend their privilege being questioned is tantamount to the Holocaust if there is a rational reason to prevent their religious outbursts? You obviously must be stopped by any means necessary, lest you spread your reasonable nature to their children.

  • 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!!!!

  • jonolan

    The teacher should be fired and her personal details posted for all to see and act upon as they see fit. The same holds true for any of the school’s administrators who side with this teacher.

  • 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.

  • 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


    “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.”

    • Rick Prohaska

      The supreme court ruled years ago that a student or A Teacher, does not leave their rights behind at the school door
      why we keep hiring people to stupid to be up on the law as it relates to their profession i dont know.

  • 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.

  • hush insanity

    matt, saying bless you in class is not disrupting it and your rude for saying it is, saying bless you is common certusy and her saying that was polight. plus the new isnt onehundret present right so reaserch is nessisary, but even the school wouldnt lie about iss

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