Student forced to remove Ash Wednesday cross

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- A Utah teacher is apologizing after she didn't allow one of her students to wear a religious symbol at school.

KSTU-TV reports, like millions of Catholics and Christians around the world, William McLeod received an ash cross on his forehead to commemorate Ash Wednesday. But the boy's teacher made him wipe it off when he got to school.

"They put it on your forehead to show holiness," McLeod said of the ashes.

He was the only student in his class with an ash cross on his forehead.

"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 said.

Ash Wednesday is the start of the Easter season.

"To celebrate being closer to God," the 4th grader explains.

But the cross didn't stay on William McLeod's forehead very long.

"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 said.

His attempt to explain the meaning of the symbol fell on deaf ears.

"She took me aside and she said you have to take it off. So she gave me a de-infection wipe -- whatever they are called -- and she made me wipe it off," McLeod said.

McLeod says it happened as many of his classmates watched.

"They saw the teacher wipe it off because they wiped it off in front of all my friends... I felt like, really bad," he said.

The school's principal called McLeod's grandmother, Karen Fisher, as soon as she learned of the incident.

"I was pretty upset," Fisher said.

The teacher also called.

"I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment and she said, 'No' and 'Ohhhh,'" Fisher said.

The Davis School District says what happened is not acceptable.

"Why that even came up, I have no idea," said school district spokesperson Chris Williams.

The district says it wants students of all faiths to feel welcomed.

"When a student comes into school with ashes on their forehead it's not something we say 'please take off,'" Williams said.

Later in the day William McLeod received candy and a handwritten message from his teacher.

"It said, 'William, I am so sorry. I hope we can move things from here," McLeod said.

He and his family hope this will serve as a valuable learning experience.

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

The school district is taking this incident seriously and conducting an investigation.

The teacher could face disciplinary action.