Teacher suspends high-school student for using manners. No really. That happened.

Aug 25, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Image: Fox43.com

When someone sneezes what do you say? Some say “gesundheit” while others say “bless you.” Some religious people will even tack a “God” onto the front of the latter. Can you think of anything else commonly used? No? Then why on earth was a Dyer County High School student suspended for saying “bless you” when a teacher sneezed?

According to the student, the teacher said it was “Godly speaking” which doesn’t belong in her class. Huh?

Banned phrases | Sheknows.com

Photo credit: Fox43.com

Kendra Turner’s teacher has a pretty strict “no talking in class” rule. In addition to not allowing talking in class the teacher has a list of banned words and phrases on display in the room. Banned are “stupid,” “boring,” “I don’t know,” “my bad” and “other peer expressions.” Oh, and “bless you” is on her list of banned phrases, which can cause complications when someone sneezes and you want to, you know, be polite.


According to Kendra’s Aug. 18, 2014 Facebook post, she was just trying to be courteous when a girl next to her sneezed and she said “bless you”. Kendra and her teacher got into a heated discussion over Kendra’s use of the phrase, with Kendra sent to the office and ultimately to in-school detention for “acting up”. During their discussion the teacher said “I will not have Godly speaking in my class,” and informed Kendra that her pastor should teach “freedom of speech and religion does not work at their school.” Other students are backing Kendra’s version of the event, even showing support by showing up to school in homemade “#BlessYou” shirts.


The problem here as I see it is two-fold. First, what are these kids supposed to say when someone sneezes if not “bless you”? It is the most common response, isn’t often meant as a genuine religious blessing, and is frankly good manners. Banning the phrase is just silly and promotes discourtesy and rude behavior.

Second, a 42-year veteran teacher instructing her students that their constitutional rights evaporate once they enter a classroom is scary — especially with regards to the freedom of religion issue. Freedom of religion — not freedom from religion — is the cornerstone of our nation’s founding. It is the main reason the Pilgrims fled to the New World and was the foremost issue on our founder’s minds, evidenced by its placement as the first Constitutional amendment in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion means the right to practice (or not), and the separation of church and state clause refers to the right to choose what god you worship, rather than being forced to worship at a state-sponsored church.

Kendra wasn’t leading her fellow students in prayer (and even if she was, it would have been fine), she was offering common courtesy towards a classmate. If the teacher just wanted to reprimand her for the class interruption she should have picked better words. By declaring the phrase “bless you” to be Godly and banning it from class, the teacher absolute violated Kendra’s rights. Looks like in this case, the teacher could use some remedial constitutional training. Maybe Kendra can tutor her.

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