In mid-August 2014 the story of a teen named Kendra Turner and what seemed to be political correctness run amok began a journey around the internet. According to Turner, she was suspended from school simply for saying “bless you” to a fellow classmate who had sneezed.
The story went viral in part due to a Facebook post by Turner on 18 August 2014. Turner alleged in the post that a fellow student had sneezed, and the she had replied with a standard “bless you,” prompting a trip to the principal’s office and eventual suspension.
In Turner’s Facebook post, she claims:
Turner also spoke with local news stations about her alleged “bless you” related suspension from school, as seen in this clip:
While Turner claims that the teacher
(whose name hasn’t been disclosed) specifically singled her out over religion, the Dyer County school says otherwise. According to Assistant Principal Lynn Garner (via a local news source), Turner was not disciplined for religious speech, and the in-school suspension aspect was applied not as a disciplinary consequence but as standard procedure following voluntary or involuntary visits to the principal:
“The majority of the time, when a student comes to the office either voluntarily or was sent by a teacher, they are placed in ISS until the end of the period because we have two supervisors in there to watch them … it gives us a chance to find out what the situation is and what happened in the classroom for them to be in the office in the first place. In this case, this was not a religious issue at all, but more of an issue the teacher felt was a distraction in her class.”
On 19 August 2014, Turner spoke at a press conference held at her local church. During the conference, she explained her reasoning in going public with her “bless you” tale:
Dyer County High School cannot specifically comment on the incident involving Kendra Turner and the “bless you” controversy due to privacy laws protecting her records. However, while Turner maintained that “bless you” was one of a number of frequently uttered phrases banned from classroom chatter so as not to disrupt the teacher’s lesson, Garner asserted that the issue at hand was not religion but rather disruptive speaking.