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Teacher calls request to remove ash cross on Ash Wednesday “total misunderstanding”

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Students and parents are rallying around a Davis County teacher who made national headlines by forcing a student to remove a cross from his forehead on Ash Wednesday.

They want her reinstated.

Moana Patterson was surrounded by her students and their parents, who held nothing back in showing their support.  Some shouted, “We love you, Moana,” while others cheered on.

She remembers handing the boy, William McLeod, a wet wipe, telling him to wipe off what she thought was a smudge of dirt.

“When I learned it was a sacred symbol for Ash Wednesday, I immediately apologized to the boy and his family,” she says.

Patterson says the whole matter was just a misunderstanding, and she had no intention of upsetting anyone.

“My entire life has been centered around respecting diversity.  I would never, ever, intentionally disrespect any religion or any sacred symbol,” Patterson says.

Since then, she and parents at the school say they’ve learned a lot more about Ash Wednesday, and why it’s so important to the Catholic faith.

However, parents of the children in Patterson’s classroom say the Davis School District handled the situation very badly.  Kimberly Fadden says teachers at Valley View have been instructed not to speak about this, since there is an active investigation.  She believes that is making speculation around what happened even worse.

“My son came home from school and the message that I was received was that a teacher was fired,” Fadden says.

She’s also taking issue with how district officials spoke to the press.

“I was extremely disappointed in the message.  It was completely careless to make any statement to the media before having all the facts,” she adds.

McLeod has said he accepts Patterson’s apology, adding that he feels “really bad for her,” and that she’s a “really nice teacher.”