Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, November 20, 2014

No Rights in This Classroom?

Forget prayer—students in one classroom in Tennessee are not even allowed to say “bless you.” Kendra Turner, a senior at Dyer County High School, responded with “bless you” when a classmate sneezed. Kendra’s teacher reprimanded her and told her that she wasn’t going to have “godly speaking” in her classroom.

The teacher’s ban on “bless you” is now an established rule. A sign hangs in the room with a list of forbidden words and phrases, including “bless you.” Most of the other words are insults or ungrammatical slang.

Kendra asserted that she had a constitutional right, and her teacher responded, “Not in my class, you don’t.” She sent Kendra to the principal’s office, where she was told that freedom of speech and religion “don’t work” at school. Kendra spent the rest of the class period in school suspension.

Once this incident hit the news, of course, the school told a different story. The administration claims this wasn’t a religious issue. Kendra was only reprimanded because “bless you” was a distraction and because she called the words across the classroom. But that story doesn’t jive with the reports of other students.

None of the excuses offered to Kendra by the teacher or the principal square with the Constitution, the law, or previous court cases, and I think they know this. I think they understand Supreme Court rulings that say students’ rights don’t disappear at the school house door. I think they’re well aware that a teacher can’t outlaw “bless you” or tell students they don’t have constitutional rights in a classroom. They’re just hoping students don’t know that, or are too intimidated to speak out.

Students need to know their rights and ought to be prepared to stand up for them.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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