Bless You: Just Not in School in Dyer County Tennessee

The teacher allegedly has a list of words that students may not use in the classroom.

The teacher allegedly has a list of words that students may not use in the classroom. Photo Source: Viewer submitted to

And we wonder why school teachers receive no respect; why students misbehave in class; why students seem to care little about learning; why children disrespect parents and guardians; why law and order in many ways seem to be only historical events. I have many friends who tell me that one reason is that God has been removed from schools.

You might not believe in God, but I do. I think of God as the Creator; Jesus Christ who died for our sins; the Holy Spirit. Most of my friends and colleagues who believe in God most likely agree with me in that God is not just powerful, but very, very, powerful. I do, however, believe that one must have faith to believe in God. Without that faith, one can look at the same things and argue whether or not God exists. Without faith, I don’t know if anyone could prove or disprove the existence of God to satisfy me. Most likely the same is true of you. Also at times we meet someone who believes as we do but calls God by some other name or terminology. The book cover may look different and the chapters and words altered but the same substance and thesis is present.

Who among us is so powerful that they can push God out of us?  We might be strong enough to kick God out of ourselves or at least think we can succeed, but a school building, classroom, village, town, city, country, continent…. Seriously, when did we get the power to start and stop our heart from beating at will? If you have a belief or faith in God it is not because you have some tangible object to hold or to lose. It’s because of something you have inside.

At a conference if I remove my name tag, I still know who I am. People who have met me know who I am. Many times from a presentation, people who have never met me know who I am. Sure that name tag makes it easier, but removing the tag changes nothing within. On a similar note, I think that changing or removing a display only alters that display. God is not limited to that statue, plaque of the 10 Commandments, or any other symbol. Neither the presence nor lack of presence of tangible fixtures can morph what you are if faith exists.

Now I wasn’t present in that classroom, and I would guess that maybe 30 or so people were there. Of those 30 or so, my guestimate is that possibly half paid attention to the majority of what happened. Still many more than that 15 or 30 is absolutely positive about what transpired.

You can read Todd Starnes at FOX and his article “Student punished for saying ‘bless you’” here.

Breitbart’s headline has the student being suspended which to me creates an impression other than the student attending her next class period. 

You can see and listen to some local television news reports about the incident interviews with the student from Dwyer County, Tennessee, here.

The local newspaper has a story here.

Here is the Yahoo News take.

The student said…the student said…

The student said, so everything the student said has to be accurate. As we know from our own high school experience, a student would never embellish an event so of course a lie is impossible. We have even more “proof” with another student provided photograph that according to the student punished showed a listing of words and phrases not allowed inside the classroom.

Did anyone take a picture of the entire board? It seems like that list could be part of a lesson. I mean that in all my public school years as a student, undergraduate and graduate schools, and teaching at 2 year Community Colleges and 4 year Colleges and Universities, believe it or not I can actually recall the number of times I yelled out “Other peer expressions” inside a classroom. The answer is none, zero, zilch…. 

I wasn’t there as I admit, but allow me posit two other scenarios from my high school days.

A teacher tells the class to remain quiet. Someone says something completely innocent or makes a noise, perhaps unintentionally, and the teacher asks who created the noise. If any form of disruption to other members of the class develops, either the teacher asks the student to leave and go to the office or the teacher accompanies the student outside the classroom to continue the conversation. Once in the office, the principal can discipline the student, send the student back to the classroom and hope that the disruption doesn’t escalate, let the student roam unsupervised for the remainder of the period, or assign the student to a specific area until the next class period. From reading the student’s account, it appears that the latter is this ISS (In School Suspension).

When I was in high school at times someone would cough or sneeze in the classroom. A second student would do the same. Then a third, a fourth and it just continued. Teachers handled these “outbreaks” in different manners. I do remember my senior year English teacher (RIP), and he was the first to say “Bless You” when I sneezed in class. Others in the class said the same. Someone else sneezed and the “Bless You” cycle continued. People started fake sneezing, and I felt another real sneeze coming. Now I have a big nose, huge honker, and I do get full value out of each sneeze. My teacher saw me about to sneeze, shouted hurricane, and did what can best be described as a “Duck and Cover” behind his desk. Everyone laughed. He tossed a box of tissues at me, told me to step out and blow my nose…not in the direction of any buildings or trees…and informed the class we had 10 minutes left to complete our writing assignment.

Please don’t misunderstand

It is possible that a teacher at Dyer County High School does not believe in God. It is possible that this teacher spoke or lashed out at this student because of a religious connection to the phrase “Bless You” whether someone believes that expression is religious or not. It is possible that a teacher retorted:

“We will not have Godly speaking in my class!”

Call me naïve, but I just wonder what other students in that classroom saw and heard. I wonder about what the teacher said happened. I wonder because I really don’t have enough information to discern fact from fiction here.

The single account may be the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Still, it seems that the only account is from one specific personal perspective which happens to benefit that particular person if this is nothing but the truth.

Sure Todd Starnes could have investigated this story more deeply but that would take time. Also the investigation might lead to information that would not promote his personal writings. The student and the student’s church have media attention.

The teacher, however, is guilty because one student said that the teacher said this and another student took a photograph that the first student captioned. I guess that it doesn’t make any difference what the teacher will say or the other students about what they saw and heard.

The media coverage is because it is what some want to hear to illustrate that God has been kicked out of school. It’s what some need to say for their monetary profit.

Yep some media sources and people have already convicted a teacher based on the word of a student without any verification or even the want to investigate. One of my lifelong friends who I would still trust with my life even though I haven’t seen him in years believes the student’s account entirely. I’m not criticizing him because I think he just got caught up in the headlines and little teasers. He might be correct, but he would take the time to substantiate his feelings and not jump the modern bandwagon of the teacher must be at fault.

And we wonder why we have so many problems. 

Teachers do not get the respect they deserve and have earned. Those of us who have stood and still stand in front of classrooms realize that we won’t become rich or famous. We don’t teach for rewards or recognition. We teach because we believe that we can benefit society by assisting our students along their respective pathways to their careers. 

I’m not alone in that I take more pride in the accomplishments of my students than anything for which I get recognized. Why? Because I’d like to believe that something I said or did resulted in that student considering the past and applying it in some manner within their own field. One thing that I have learned with age is often the smallest of things, those you forget quickly because they become lost amongst so much else, are the things that often mean the most to the one on the receiving end. Perhaps I influenced a student. Perhaps I did not. I can only relate that many have chosen to remain in contact with me long after the semester or semesters they took my classes.

It was only a couple of years ago that my own God Mother became aware of how much she helped me following the death of my Mom when I was a teen. I was too dang hardheaded to allow her to do anything for me at the time. What I discovered later and let her know is the simple fact that she tried to help me, and my understanding that I could have gone to her was more beneficial than I realized at the time.  At times a mere thought can be all the difference in the world. 

Whether you call me a professor, a teacher, a Louisiana boy from Livingston Parish, a nice guy, good looking, an idiot, or a SOB, I’ll describe myself as a nobody because I ain’t nothing special. The thing is, however, I had some teachers, professors, and mentors who were special, and they were people who cared and sacrificed for the benefit of others. Now I have the honor of knowing all these students who are special; who are somebody, and who I hope will accomplish things I cannot even imagine.

They ask me why I teach, And I reply, Where could I find more splendid company?

Sadly I doubt that this “guilty” teacher or any other teacher is fatally wounded by public lack of respect. If they are like me, they might be satisfied if offered only the benefit of the doubt. Just like any profession, a few teachers are great, most capable, and a few incapable. Teachers want the incapable and the bad ones out of the profession because it hurts them as they are also a part of the same society in which we all live.

If this student related everything accurately and this teacher is in fact guilty then appropriate disciplinary actions should be taken. Just like if it was you or someone in your profession, would you want at least some type of hearing before conviction is levied? I’ll even argue that this student should be given the benefit of the doubt if this event were embellished. I was that age, and I can’t say what I would do if granted all of this attention.

For those in the education profession, just remember that just because you are a teacher, you are not always wrong when people hear or see something different than what they want. They might not appreciate a different opinion or perspective, but we are all capable of learning regardless of whether we want to or not.


2 thoughts on “Bless You: Just Not in School in Dyer County Tennessee

  1. Reblogged this on sachemspeaks and commented:
    You might not believe in God, but I do. I think of God as the Creator!

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