Nothing to Sneeze At: Lawyers Demand School Apologize to Student

dyer county highLawyers representing a Tennessee school student who was suspended for saying “God bless you” after a fellow student sneezed in class are demanding that the school not only exonerate the student, but to publicly apologize to her and change their unconstitutional rules.

Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty, issued a press release yesterday announcing action they have taken on behalf of Dyer County High School student Kendra Turner.

The firm sent a demand letter to school officials for unlawfully punishing the high school senior for blessing another student who sneezed. The letter seeks an apology from school officials who banned students from saying, “bless you” and other religious language while at school.

“It is unlawful for a school official to kick a student out of class for quietly blessing another student after she sneezes,” said Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremiah Dys. “School officials must follow the rules of the Constitution just like students must follow the reasonable rules of the classroom.”

During a computer class on Aug. 18, a student sitting beside Kendra sneezed. In accordance with their family’s strongly held faith, Kendra’s parents taught her to say “bless you” when a person sneezes—which she did with little or no classroom disruption. However, Kendra’s teacher disrupted the rest of the class to confront Kendra’s quiet use of the phrase “bless you.” A classroom discussion followed during which the teacher forcefully explained that there would be no “godly speaking” in her classroom and sent Kendra to the principal’s office. Kendra met with a vice-principal who affirmed the teacher’s hostile action, stating no religious language is permitted in the classroom. Subsequently, Kendra was sentenced to in-school suspension (ISS) for the remainder of the block period.

The letter sent Wednesday asks for a public apology to Kendra, the exoneration of her disciplinary record, and the removal of the ban on the phrase, “bless you” at Dyer County High School.

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