Tennessee student claims she was suspended for saying “bless you” after classmate sneezed

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DYER COUNTY, Tenn. (CNN) - A young girl in Tennessee says she was suspended after breaking a class rule of saying "bless you" after a classmate sneezed.

When Dyer County High School senior Kendra Turner said "bless you," she says her teacher told her that was for church.

Turner feels her teacher was taking issue for her religion.  When she stood up for herself, Turner says she was told to go to the administrator's office and later placed in in-school suspension for the rest of that class period.

Turner's pastor says students had just talked about how to stand up for their faith last week.

"There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regards to their faith," said Rev. Becky Winegardner, Turner's youth pastor.

Image: WMC/Viewer-submitted

Image: WMC/Viewer-submitted

A student sent in a picture that shows a list of words the student claims the teacher does not allow in the classroom. "Bless you" is on the list.

Turner's parents say the school leaders claim the outburst was a classroom distraction - that Turner shouted "bless you" across the room.

According to Turner, she was reprimanded by the teacher, who said, “We will not have Godly speaking in my class.”

The Dyer County School Superintendent hasn't commented on the alleged incident.  WREG reported the school system said there is a strict policy in the keyboarding classroom against “outbursts,” including saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.  The policy is in place to assure students are not distracted, especially during tests.


  • Melissa

    So she knowingly broke a rule, and wants to be excused for doing so? Sure, let’s just teach all the students that rules are only ‘suggestions’…

    • James

      Ok Melissa. Going by your logic, I’m going to make a “rule” in my class that people named Melissa should be shunned for being inferior. Still want to stick to some teacher’s “made-up” rules?

      • Say What

        The teacher was only enforcing the rules set by the school district. The article clearly says, “the school system said there is a strict policy in the keyboarding classroom against ‘outbursts,’ including saying ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. The policy is in place to assure students are not distracted, especially during tests.”

      • Jeanne

        The article really just skimmed the surface of what happened leading to the over the top reaction we see here. Let’s calm down a bit. If you read the article carefully you might notice several things that could change the picture a bit. The article said she shouted loudly across the room during class. Then when the teacher called her on it, she “defended” herself. Was the girl insolent? Did she smart off at the teacher? Could be all this fuss was about a girl who went over the top by instigating a negative reaction from the teacher. Granted, bless you is not exactly wrong to say, most of us don’t mind it at all. But it’s possible this girl was grandstanding on purpose for the attention she wanted…and got. There are two sides to a y story, this is only one.

    • dow

      She could have said “God bless you” but she said “bless you”. She was not sitting in class preaching about God. Some people are ignorant to the fact she was just caring to someone around her. People want nothing but hate now day’s! What if the student didn’t like the earrings the teacher was wearing and they offended her? Beside the student has a right to freedom of speech yeah?

    • Allan

      Melissa,,I guess you didnt understand were the teacher haf said there will be no goddly words in her class…the way I see it,if we still practiced god and in school,, our children would have better values then what is taught at home…

    • maryb

      Well Melissa, it’s ‘allegedly’ she screamed across the room. I would say this teacher is going to say what ever to CHA! And as far as breaking ‘the rule’, it’s her constitutional right……freedom of speech and RELIGION.

  • Michelle Williams


    • Say What

      Since it was the school district that set the rules, you need to send God to save the local school board that approved the rule that the teacher was enforcing!

      • Chris Gilbert

        @ Say What, You are taken a poorly translated statement from the original article, wrong. The teacher, and all teachers at Dyer High School, were free to ban any words they thought were disruptive. In this case in particular, that policy wouldn’t pass the more than 40 year old “Tinker” test on what language can be restricted in a school setting. It is a shock that the school board’s attorney ever allowed this policy to be accepted in the first place.

  • Melissa Tompkins

    This is absolutely STUPID!!!! Why don’t they suspend the teacher, better yet send her away from there. This is what’s wrong today is “GOD” is being taken out of school’s. Why would the school board be allowing these kind of teachers to teach our kids? They need to let this student go back to school and get rid of the teacher. How can you teach your kids about God at home and then be suspended from school for being, respectful. And to top it all off she didn’t say “GOD BLESS YOU” she said “BLESS YOU”. This world and the school system, the court system, just the whole freaking systems is totally messed up!!!!!!!!

    • Say What

      Why would we suspend or fire a teacher that was enforcing the rules set by the school district and approved by the locally elected school board? Attitudes like your is proof that teachers need tenure to protect them from the Christian

  • docqualizer

    Regardless of religious implications, the words “bless you” are COMMON in every day life when people sneeze. The Dyer County School Board is off its rocker. What will be next? Punishing people for the using the words “excuse me”?



  • Mother of an ADHD boy

    Screaming “Bless You” across a room would be a distraction in any classroom. Then getting in the teacher’s face because you feel your religion is being dissed??!? Typical teenage behavior that SHOULD be punished. And the “list” has yet to be confirmed other than by a handwritten list coming from another student. Religion and faith do not give you the right to disrupt a classroom then expect not to be punished. This little girl was not standing up for her religion. She was acting like a spoiled brat and using religion as an excuse. And those of you who read this and agreed with her behavior are the reason kids feel they can get away with this kind of behavior. Don’t blindly follow! Think for yourself and don’t persecute unless you were there and know what happened. And shame on the news for sensationalizing this and making the teacher out to be the bad guy here! Start making our youth be responsible for their actions and they will grow into better adults!

    • dow

      So saying “I don’t know” was on the list too. How many people say that when they don’t know a answer? Sounds like the teacher is being VERY controlling with her list of words. Later on when you have a problem I hope you look back at your post and remember this.

    • RNA Wireman

      Gosh, your account of the incident makes it sound like you were there and know exactly what happened, which I doubt by your user ID. What amazing powers of inference you must have. You typed, ‘Think for yourself and don’t persecute’ – good advice. This child DID think for herself, and she is being persecuted. Tolerance is a TWO WAY STREET. You say ‘don’t blindly follow!’ yet you want these kids to blindly follow rules that seem overly restrictive. You must be a fan of indoctrination, not education.

    • Shannon2AMHR

      I wasn’t there, but I’m sure you weren’t either. I’m also pretty sure the student in question didn’t scream “BLESS YOU” in response to a sneeze. Some people need to get a grip. Come On, people!

    • Ashley

      I don’t understand….I mean look at the list…”my bad”?? “hang out”?? “stuff”?? U have got 2 be kidding me?? Who in their right mind would make a list like that?? Every teenager & ADULT say some, if not all, of those. It does sound like a teacher being controlling, as usual. & if she was standing up for her religion, GOOD FOR HER!! It’s beyond ridiculous that teachers would have those rules! & I’m not even big on religion…But it’s called freedom of speech..or is that when it suits them when the time comes??? The school system nowadays aren’t teaching that kind of stuff…They’re children but they have rights 2!!!

    • duck

      Screaminf? where in the story does it state she screamed.? I would also like to know the other words that this teacher banned.

    • Y0Y

      Wonder what raised a teacher that considers saying “bless you” a disruption? Look for an example with the original poster, Mother. The teacher created a larger disruption by making an issue of it. An issue that showed a clear bias against someone’s belief. But those are the rules right Mother? Well, wasnt slavery a rule once? Guess you would say anyone speaking out against the slavery rules is being disruptive and deserving of being punished. Oh and just because…last time I checked, teachers dont dictate district rules, constitutional rights or state rights. So her “rules” are about as relevant as you.

  • B

    The only freedom of religion left in this country is the atheist beliefs. You can put Christians down, hush the people that speak of it, make fun of the belief in god, etc. and forbid someone of speaking of god unless their speaking of being offended! It’s absolutely sickening! Atheist have more rights than believers do! There is no equality on this subject because someone MIGHT be offended! Well I’m offended everytime I hear of such a crewel/close minded teacher in a public school!
    A teacher should never be so close minded. If they want to mention religion it should be nothing more than them saying to their students “You should do your own research on the subject and form your own opinion”. They should never use their opinion to discipline a student!
    To whoever said it was disrupting to the class, why not suspend the kid who sneezed? That was the disruption that lead to the girls comment!

  • angel

    i hear people everyday call out a “bless you” when someone sneezes. most people consider it a common curtesy now days. i do agree that if it really was “shouted” across a room that the student should have been asked to quiet down but many people when they are being attacked will exagerate what really happened. i bet the student did not shout it across the room but said it to someone nearby. as for the teacher not allowing a common curtesy phrase to be said in her classroom well she might as well ban “excuse me” and “ma’am” and “please and thankyou” religion probably would not have been brought into it if the teacher didnt bring it to attention in the first place. i agree that one persons religeous beliefs should not be shoved at someone else and it sounds to me as if the teacher is trying to shove her religeous beliefs onto her students by not allowing someone to use a common curtesy. the student probably wouldnt have felt the need to defend her religion if the teacher didnt shove their beliefs on her.

  • dow

    I had just came out of the grocery store the other day on the way to my car. I sneezed and a young man said bless you a good ways away. Did I beat him down no!!! I told him Thank you!!! I appreciate he even said anything with all that’s going on now day’s. It made me feel better knowing that one person that I never meat in my life cared enough to say anything.

  • B

    And what’s with the list of words the teacher has banned from her room?! I had a teacher that always told me never say ” I can’t” things like that, meant to be kind of motivational I guess. But this is ridiculous. What’s the punishment for saying “hang out” , “boring”, “stuff” and any words or phrases this control freak ads to the list?!
    She needs a psych evaluation!

  • Jen

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that she probably didn’t get put into ISS for saying “Bless You” but perhaps because she talked back to her teacher which is not a good thing to do but it happens a lot. So by her mother calling the news about this tells me that mom isn’t doing her job since probably the girl talks back to her mom that way so she thinks she can do that at school too. Instead of teaching the girl not to talk back to her teacher….Mom goes and calls the news….really?? Maybe next week’s sermon at their church should be about respecting parents and people in authority positions.

  • Charlotte G

    The public schools are out of control. How about naming the teacher???
    The schools for the most part like the left are anti religion and anti military and are forcing their views on your children. Dyer Co schools get over yourself, you owe that student an apology. Parents speak up or let your children be brain washed.

  • Lotus

    I’m not a Christian nor am I religious, and I say “Bless You” because it’s a nice and polite thing to say. If it’s on the teacher’s list and you’re offended, take it up with the school. Don’t yell it across the classroom in front of the other students, blatantly defying her. Obviously, it created an upheaval in the classroom and the school was right in taking the student out for the rest of that class. The headline makes you think the student was sent home for a week for saying “Bless You.” It’s very misleading and sensationalizes the whole issue.

  • Say What

    You Christian Taliban need to settle down. The teacher was enforcing a rule set by the locally elected school board. Read the whole story before you start your moral crusades!!

  • Sheila

    Shit like this is what’s wrong with this country, and why kids act the way they do! Not allow to mention God, can’t say pledge of allegiance, and can’t discipline a kid when needed! GOD have mercy!

  • Jorge

    I smell the AFL-CIO on the case! This is sheer stupidity on the teachers part. This could/should have been handled much differently, now, a HUGE can of worms has been opened and it will only end bad for the school district.

  • Michael

    Could you imagine how everyone would be acting if this was referring to any religion besides “Christianity”? The teacher would be fired!!!!

  • dow

    The teacher needs counseling. Is she teaching basic training. Maybe the teacher should take some midol. I watched the video and the teen seemed shy so I don’t believe she yelled anything.

  • dow

    Oh and they should put cameras in the classrooms to make sure they are teaching and treating the children right.

  • Carrie Geren Scoggins

    Student’s have the legal right now, according to court rulings, to have student lead Bible clubs, Bible studies, and student lead prayer at school events, as this is their first amendment rights, THERE IS NO FREEDOM FROM RELIGION.
    Our Federal Supreme Court did not find a “freedom from religion,” but rather religious tolerance was expected.
    The teacher’s religious intolerance needs to be met with lawsuits, a call to the ACLJ, Jay Sekulow, or
    The Liberty Counsel, would be wise.
    This is not just about TN schools, this is about a move nation wide to discriminate against the Christian teens, bully them, keep them in fear of practicing their religious beliefs, hoping to silence them.




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  • Sue

    The teacher acted ridiculous! Bless you- when someone sneezes is expected. The student did NOTHING wrong! Schools seem to be having a very negative influence these days. I agree with others comments that taking GOD out of classrooms and hiring teachers like this one is a mistake. Bless you – is not religious it is a saying. She has no right to ban that. Thank GOD when I went to school that did not have this dictatorship!!! Pathetic!

      • denise v

        No it says she was enforcing her interpretation of the school districts rules. And seriously who wants their child in a school district where being polite is considered disruptive? If she had said groundwork would she have still been in trouble?

  • Concerned Student

    This is a fake story. A real situation happened like this in KY, but not here in Tennessee. This indecent occurred when the girl started mouthing off to the Teacher and other students. Instead of taking responsibility, she is trying to play it off as though she is some righteous figure who has been wronged.

    I was in the class when it happened. It was nice and peaceful while she was gone.

  • Jen

    Just wondering how many people who comment on here have actually set foot in a classroom as a teacher? I bet most of you wouldn’t last very long. It really bugs me when people bad mouth schools and honestly have no idea what they are talking about because they’ve never been on the other side of the desk. As a former teacher, the classroom is very different now than it was when I went to school and I’m not that old. Teachers spend a lot of time teaching students how to behave and less time teaching their subject matter (this isn’t everywhere of course). But of course it’s all teachers’ fault right….I guess parents have no fault in how their precious angels act in school. No wonder American students are lagging behind in education despite all the money we can spend on education and all the resources they have available to them. All I can say is…if I had talked back to my teacher..hell would have been waiting for me at home. Bringing up a child starts at home!!!! If you don’t want to raise a child…don’t have one!!

  • Kristi Brooks Fuller

    i don’t believe this was a classroom outburst just an excuse to cover up for disciplining this student. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and no one change it.

  • dow

    How do you raise your child right when other people tell them to believe and act a different way than you teach them. This is why children want to commit suicide they have so much pressure on them from teachers, friends and family’s. Why suspend a girl from school because of a reflex something she was used to saying before people decided they wanted to control what people thought or said. If she hit someone yeah, but why such a harsh punishment? What happened to writing some sentences or some other punishment. If she talked back to the teacher she could have written I will not talk back to the teacher during class. But no she was treated with the most punishment she could have gotten, except for being sent to A school.

  • Yvonne Williams

    This is just going a little to far. A student telling another student “Bless You” should not be held against them. The school system is letting all these “ATHIEST” tell them what to do. To me it sounds like the teacher is one of them. If he don’t believe in CHRIST, that’s his right, but DO NOT tell a CHRISTIAN that they can’t believe in him. When my children were in school, if someone talked to them like that, I would have been in their face. LEAVE CHRISTIANS ALONE.

  • kody

    I am not a christian nor do I claim to be and I still say bless you, it’s just respectful in our culture. unless she jumped up out of her chair and screamed it this teacher is in the wrong. According to that policy a kid I grew up with would have been in iss every few days cause he sneezed like a cannon and scared the whole class every time.

  • C

    Shouting across the classroom is disruptive, as was the student’s challenge to authority. The student could have submitted a formal letter of complaint against the teacher’s actions and/or rules. I think the teacher overreacted and obviously has a chip on his or her shoulder regarding God, but I also know a wise-cracking teen when I encounter one and I’m pretty sure she’s no angel. She’s making a big deal out of being told to sit down and be quiet. It is not her job to demonstrate the good manners she was brought up with by SHOUTING in class. I also think the pastor needs to butt out. He’s stirring the pot. Everyone knows that people say “God bless you” or “Oh my God” without meaning it as a testimony to God, just as folks ask “how are you” even though everyone knows it’s just a formality. By jumping into the fray, that pastor IS making it an issue.

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