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Utah teacher apologizes after making boy remove religious symbol on Ash Wednesday

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BOUNTIFUL, Utah — A fourth-grade student says he wasn’t allowed to wear an important religious symbol to school.

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

When he arrived at school, he noticed he was the only student in his class wearing the ash cross.

“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 KSTU.

Moments later, McLeod was confronted by his teacher.

McLeod tried to explain the symbol’s significance, but he says the teacher forced him to wash it off.

“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off,’” McLeod described. “She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”

After finding out about the incident the school’s principal called the boy’s family

“I was pretty upset,” said Karen Fisher, McLeod’s grandmother.

Fisher also received a call from the teacher who instructed McLeod to remove the cross.

“I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, no,” Fisher said.

The Davis School District is apologizing for the mishap, saying it wasn’t acceptable and that students of all faiths should feel welcomed.

“Why that even came up, I have no idea,” said Chris Williams, a spokesperson for the district. “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say 'Please take off.'"

The district is taking this incident seriously and conducting and investigation. The teacher could face disciplinary action.

McLeod received a handwritten apology and some candy from his teacher. He and his family hope others won’t have the same experience.

“I hope it helps somebody and I hope it never happens again,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it will.”

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