Teacher apologizes for making student wipe off Ash Wednesday cross

Teacher who made student wipe off Ash Wednesday cross: 'No idea it was a religious symbol'

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (KSL/CNN) - A Utah elementary school teacher spoke publicly Monday about asking one of her students to wipe off an Ash Wednesday cross from his forehead.

There was a huge showing of support for fourth-grade teacher Moana Patterson. She says what happened in the classroom last week was nothing more than a misunderstanding.

"I had no idea it was a religious symbol," she said.

She’s at the center of a controversy involving the sacred symbol for Christians. An ash cross on the forehead is used to mark the first day of Lent.

Patterson told 9-year-old William McLeod to wipe it off his face Wednesday.

"A student came into my classroom with what appeared to be dirt on his forehead," she said. "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 apologized to William and said she hopes they can move on from the incident. He said he had accepted her apology and added, "she's a really nice teacher."

Moana Patterson told 9-year-old William McLeod to wipe an Ash Wednesday cross off his face.
Moana Patterson told 9-year-old William McLeod to wipe an Ash Wednesday cross off his face. (KSL/CNN)

Gary McLeod, 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.

"He explained to her it was Ash Wednesday, it was from church and he was not allowed to take it off," Gary McLeod said.

The teacher is 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.

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