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Tennessee High School Student Suspended for Saying 'Bless You,' Rebuked by Teacher for Using 'Godly Speaking' In Her Classroom

( [email protected] ) Aug 21, 2014 05:18 PM EDT
Kendra Turner was kicked out of her high school classroom in Dyersburg, Tennessee after responding to a classmate’s sneeze with “Bless you.”
Kendra Turner and her mother MyFoxMemphis

Kendra Turner was kicked out of her high school classroom in Dyersburg, Tennessee after responding to a classmate's sneeze with "Bless you."

Many Americans say "bless you" as a common courtesy when others sneeze. While it might be a force of habit for some, others might want to comfort those who are ill or are embarrassed from giving a loud sneeze with the phrase. Kendra Turner was raised with Christian morals, and believes that saying "bless you" is a polite gesture.

Turner's high school teacher had banned the phrase "bless you" in her classroom, along with others like "my bad" and "hang out." While saying "bless you" can have a religious connotation, today it is often a common courtesy used by both Christians and non-believers alike. One theory is that the phrase originated from a belief that demons were being expelled from a person's body when they sneezed. People would then bless the sneezer in an attempt to "ward off the re-entry of an evil spirit" (see Luke 11:24-26).

When a fellow classmate sneezed, Turner promptly said "Bless you." Her teacher asked her why she had said it, and Turner told her that she was being courteous. The teacher then asked her who had told her that it was courteous, and she said that her pastor and her parents had taught her to say it.

"Now, we will not have Godly speaking in my class," said the teacher - to which Turner said that she had a constitutional right to express herself freely. "Not in my class you don't," the teacher retorted. Turner said that she was prepared to defend her religion, but the teacher wouldn't have that in her class - "I trump everyone," she said authoritatively. "You don't over trump God," said another student, and Turner was promptly sent to the office.

An administrator told Turner that if she didn't want to follow her teacher's rules, she should go learn from her pastor instead. Turner was then sent to in-school suspension for the remainder of the class period.

The teacher maintains that what conspired was not a religious issue and that Turner was sent to the office because she was disrupting the class. Many who have heard Turner's story have expressed that being suspended for saying "bless you" - even if it were shouted across a classroom - is rather extreme punishment, however.