A teacher in Utah has apologized to a fourth-grade student whom she ordered to remove the ash cross that was on his forehead for Ash Wednesday.
William McLeod of Bountiful, Utah, went to school Wednesday with an ash cross on his forehead that he had received earlier that morning at church.
“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,’” McLeod told local news outlet FOX13.
He was the only one in his class with the ashes on his forehead.
William attempted to explain what it meant to his teacher but she required him to wipe it off and handed him a disinfecting wipe.
After hearing about what happened, the school’s principal phoned McLeod's family to apologize.
“I was pretty upset,” said Karen Fisher, McLeod's grandmother.
“I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, No,” Fisher said, recounting the conversation she had with the teacher who had ordered her grandson to remove the cross from his forehead.
The school district has also apologized, saying every student should be welcomed regardless of their faith.
“Why that even came up, I have no idea,” said Chris Williams, a school district spokesperson.
“When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say 'Please take off.'"
The teacher, who gave a handwritten apology to McLeod along with some candy, also might face disciplinary action.
“I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it will.”
The imposition of ashes is an observance celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church and in other liturgical churches to mark the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. As the ashes are imposed on each forehead the priest will say something like "remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."
As The Christian Post reported this week, worshipers usually choose to leave the ashes on their foreheads for the remainder of the day as an outward sign and symbol of grief, as well as purification and sorrow for sins.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel speaks of seeking the Lord for the release of His people from Babylonian exile with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes (Daniel 9:3).
In some churches, palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday service are saved, and then burned to produce the ashes for the Ash Wednesday service.