'It's Inappropriate': Fourth Grade Student in Utah Told to Wipe Off Ash Wednesday Cross

A teacher could face disciplinary action after she reportedly instructed a fourth-grade student to wipe the Ash Wednesday cross off his forehead.

Ash Wednesday is considered one of the biggest holy days for those who observe it and Catholics and certain Christian denominations often addend church services. During the service, attendees usually approach the altar and a church leader uses ashes to form a cross on their forehead.

William McLeod arrived at his Utah elementary school on Wednesday with the ash cross on his forehead, much to the surprise of his classmates. The fourth grader told KSTU that he explained to his classmates that he's Catholic and Wednesday was the first day of Lent.

McLeod's classmates weren't the only ones confused by the ash on his forehead and he said his teacher, who has not been named, also asked him about it.

"The teacher walked over and said, like, 'What is that?' and I was like, 'It's Ash Wednesday, and I'm Catholic, it's the first day of lent,' and [she] was like, 'No it's inappropriate, go take it off,'" McLeod told KSTU.

utah fourth grader william mcleod ash wednesday cross remove
Pope Francis looks on as he celebrates the Ash Wednesday mass which opens Lent, at the Santa Sabina church in Rome, on March 6. A fourth grader in Utah was told to remove the ash cross from his forehead on Wednesday, prompting an apology from the teacher. FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

Although the fourth-grader tried to explain the reasoning behind the ashes on her forehead, his attempts were in vain. The teacher gave him a disinfectant wipe and instructed him to wipe the cross off.

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

It's unclear how the principal was made aware of the situation, but after she was informed, she called McLeod's grandmother, Karen Fisher, who was "pretty upset" by the incident. The teacher also called Fisher and she asked if the educator ever read the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.

"I hope it helps somebody, and I hope it never happens again," Fisher said. "I don't think it will."

After the school called the family, the district told Newsweek that the school called the district's Director of Educational Equity, who is an ordained Catholic deacon. He reached out to the family, who accepted his offer to apply an ash cross to McLeod's forehead.

"We are sorry about what happened and apologize to the student and the family for the teacher's actions. The actions were unacceptable," Williams told Newsweek. "No student should ever be asked or required to remove an ash cross from his or her forehead."

The teacher also reached out to McLeod later in the day and offered him candy and a handwritten message. The note offered an apology and the hope that they can move forward. Davis School District launched an investigation into the incident, and KSTU reported it's possible the teacher could face disciplinary action for forcing her student to remove the ashes.

It's unclear which elementary school the fourth-grader attends. There are over 50 elementary schools in the Davis School District, including one in McLeod's town of Bountiful, although the district didn't specify if that is where he is enrolled.

This article has been updated to include the response from Chris Williams, a spokesperson for the Davis School District.

'It's Inappropriate': Fourth Grade Student in Utah Told to Wipe Off Ash Wednesday Cross | U.S.