Tennessee student punished after saying ‘bless you’

By: Staff Email
By: Staff Email

Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

DYER COUNTY, Tenn. - A Tennessee high school student says a common courtesy landed her in in-school suspension.

Kendra Turner said, saying "bless you" to a classmate who sneezed, then defending herself to her teacher, landed her in trouble.

Turner, is a newly enrolled senior at Dyer County High School and admits to breaking a classroom rule by saying "bless you", but she said that rule, violated her First Amendment rights.

"Bless you, hang out, my bad, dumb, stupid, stuff, and things like that," Turner said.

Those are the words Turner said are banned by her computer teacher at Dyer County High School.

She admits to saying "bless you" on Monday after the student next to her sneezed. She said she was just being polite.

"She told me that we're not going to have godly speaking in her class," Turner said. "I said, 'well my pastor told me it's my constitutional right.'"

In a letter shared by the Turners, allegedly from her teacher, she calls "bless you" and other expressions distract and interrupts smooth flow."

"Ridiculous," Pastor Becky Winegardner said. "It's just something I really don't think warrants in-school suspension."

Pastor Winegardner is the Turners pastor and a former high school principal. She said other students had come to her concerned about the teacher's rules. She said she told them to do the right thing.

"I am hoping to try and encourage my students to stand-up." Pastor Winegardner said. "To stand up for who they are. But I want to see it done in the proper place. During break time and free time in the classroom."

Although she said this situation has been a difficult one, Turner said she has been blessed with a great support system.

"A lot of them came into school with t-shirts that said "bless you" on them to support me," Turner said. "A lot of people were saying stuff on Facebook too."

The Dyer County School District declined multiple requests to talk on camera about the incident, but said it has been blown way out of proportion.

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