When covering parenting news, you get fairly used to hearing crazy and outlandish stories, and today’s story about a California teacher punishing a student for saying “Bless you” to a fellow classmate after she sneezed, surely ranks among the most idiotic things I’ve heard all week.
Taylor McGinley sneezed in her health class at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, CA a few weeks ago. When a student replied with “God bless you,” teacher Steven Cuckovich was not happy and penalized the students.
According to one student, he said, ‘Do you think that girl is evil, do you think the evil spirits are coming out of her?’ And the guy that said “bless you” was like ‘No, I was just doing what I was supposed to do when somebody sneezes, not trying to be rude.”
The first time it happened, Cuckovich took 25 points off from a student’s grade and the next day it happened, he did the same:
“The blessing doesn’t really make sense anymore,” he said. “When you sneeze in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying, ‘God bless you,’ for getting rid of evil spirits. But today, what you’re doing doesn’t really make any sense anymore.”
I doubt that anyone saying ‘bless you’ to a person who has just sneezed really believes they are casting aside evil spirits. They likely do it as a common courtesy, a gesture of politeness. Many of us were raised immediately saying bless you when any person sneezes and for a lot of us, it’s completely automatic. I’ve never been in a classroom as a student, parent or teacher where students became unruly because a simple “bless you” had been muttered. It’s ridiculous. It’s also not fair. For a teacher to deduct grade points for student who may unintentionally, even automatically say bless you after a sneeze is unreasonable.
Cuckovich told the students sneezing and saying “bless you” is a distraction and takes time out of learning. He maintains his ruling has nothing to do with religion or God, but I wonder about that. His stance that saying “bless you” makes no sense seems a little nonsensical to me. I get that the school is a public school and God is not officially allowed in the curriculum, but they have no right to censor a student’s own personal words to each other (unless they are threatening).
I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising then that we live in a society where, in many cases, bullying is overlooked to the point of children killing themselves, yet students being polite, even nice to one another is discouraged.
What’s next? Should holding the door for one another be banned because it promotes the spread of germs or holds up the line? Perhaps we should also ban “thank you” and “I’m sorry”.
Related article: How to teach manners to toddlers