Utah Teacher: “I Had No Idea It Was A Religious Symbol”

Tags: Currents Faith, National News

Currents News Staff

We are hearing for the first time from a Utah elementary school teacher who asked one of her students to wipe off an Ash Wednesday cross from the forehead.

She says what happened in the classroom last week was nothing more than a misunderstanding.

“I had no idea it was a religious symbol,” said Moana Patterson.

She’s at the center of a headed controversy over a sacred symbol for the Catholic faithful – an ash cross on the forehead to mark the holy day, Ash Wednesday.

“My entire life has been centered around respecting diversity,” she said.

But last Wednesday Patterson told 9-year-old William McLeod to wipe his ashes off. This is the first time she’s given her side of the story.

“A student came into my classroom with what appeared to be dirt on his forehead. I gave him a wet wipe to clean it off. When I learned it was a sacred symbol for Ash Wednesday I immediately apologized to the boy and his family,” she said.

We spoke to William last week and he told us Patterson said, “William, I’m so sorry about what happened today. I hope we can move forward from this.” He added, “I told her I accept her apology because she’s a really nice teacher.”

But William’s dad is not buying Patterson’s statement about thinking it was dirt. He says she knew it was a sacred symbol because his son told her.

“It’s pretty serious where somebody is treated like that for their religion,” said Gary McLeod. Adding, “He explained to her it was Ash Wednesday, it was from church and he was not allowed to take it off.”

The teacher is currently out of the classroom while the school district reviews what happened.

A school district spokesperson said last week that her actions were unacceptable, adding that no student should be asked or required to move an ash cross from their forehead.