Teacher Apologizes For ‘Total Misunderstanding’ On Ash Wednesday

Mar 11, 2019, 7:03 PM | Updated: 7:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A Bountiful Elementary school teacher who told a student to wipe off a holy cross symbol on Ash Wednesday spoke out for the first time Monday.

Moana Patterson, who teaches 4th grade at Valley View Elementary School, was surrounded by dozens of students, parents and Utah State Senator Todd Weiler at the capitol as she spoke about what she says happened last Wednesday when she told William McLeod, 9, to wipe off his cross.

“A student came into my classroom with what appeared to be dirt on his forehead. I gave him a wet wipe to clean it off. I had no idea it was a religious symbol,” she said. “When I learned it was a sacred symbol for Ash Wednesday, I immediately apologized to the boy and his family. My entire life has been centered around respecting diversity. I would never ever intentionally disrespect any religion or any sacred symbol. It was a total misunderstanding. I hope we can move forward and build understanding together.”

The Davis School District put Patterson, who has been teaching at Valley View for three years, on paid administrative leave. They told KSL last week that her actions were unacceptable and the matter is under investigation.

Patterson did send an apology letter to William, who spoke to KSL last week. He said he accepted the apology.

After Monday’s press conference, William’s father, Gary Mcleod, told KSL that he doesn’t accept Patterson’s statement. He says his son told her what that symbol was.

“He explained to her it was Ash Wednesday, it was from church and he was not allowed to take it off,” he said. “When my son explains to you that’s what it is you at least call a supervisor or somebody. Don’t force him to remove it in front of his class”

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Teacher Apologizes For ‘Total Misunderstanding’ On Ash Wednesday