Kristin Murphy, KSL file

Teacher who asked student to wipe ash cross from his forehead returns to classroom

By Marjorie Cortez, KSL | Posted - Mar 19th, 2019 @ 12:44pm



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SALT LAKE CITY — A Bountiful elementary school teacher who asked a student to wipe palm ash from his forehead has returned to the classroom after a school district review.

The Davis School District confirmed the teacher's return in a statement issued Tuesday.

"We take matters regarding students and employees very seriously. We investigated the situation, followed policy and took action. The teacher has since returned to the classroom," district spokesman Chris Williams wrote in a statement.

The educator, Valley View Elementary School teacher Moana Patterson, addressed the issue at a press conference at the state Capitol last week.

She said the incident was the result of a "total misunderstanding."

Patterson said the student, William McLeod, came into her fourth-grade classroom "with what appeared to be dirt on his forehead. I gave him a wet wipe to clean it off. I had no idea it was a religious symbol. When I learned it was a sacred symbol for Ash Wednesday, I immediately apologized to the boy and family."

The statement said the school district was not at liberty to discuss the details of the investigation or results because it was a personnel matter.

"We are moving forward and will do everything we can to make sure every educator and every student is successful as possible. The school principal will also be working with the district's Education Equity Department to provide any additional training that Valley View educators need," according to the statement.

The boy's father, Gary McLeod, said his son explained to Patterson that it was Ash Wednesday, that the ash cross was placed on his forehead at church and he was not allowed to remove it.

But McLeod said he has no ill will toward Patterson and doesn't want her to lose her job.

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