Teacher to stop grade docking for 'Bless You' comments

VACAVILLE, Calif. — A Northern California high school teacher has vowed to stop penalizing students who say "Bless You" in class when someone sneezes.

Health teacher Steven Cuckovich recently made national headlines after students and parents complained that he deducted 25 points off of the grades of students who used the phrase.

"I sneezed and someone said 'bless you' and he said, 'Do you think that girl is evil? Do you think the evil spirits are coming out of here?'" student Taylor McGinley told CBN.

Erica Fagan, another student, said Cuckovich took 25 points off everyone's grade in her class because one person said, "bless you" after a sneeze, the network reported.

Cuckovich, a teacher at Will C. Wood High School, said the post-sneeze practice was a disruption in class.

In an interview with the FOX affiliate in Sacramento, the teacher said the policy was not anti-religion.

"It's got to do with an interruption of class time," he said.

But in the television interview, Cuckovich went on to call the practice irrelevant.

"The blessing doesn't make any sense anymore," Cuckovich told the station. "When you sneeze in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying, 'God bless you,' for getting rid of evil spirits. But today, what you're doing doesn't really make any sense."

Even so, Cuckovich said he would no longer dock students with their grades, but find another way to maintain order in his classroom.

In a statement released Sept. 29, Vacaville Unified School District Superintendent John Niederkorn said his office is investigating the matter.

"Of question is whether a series of these repeated remarks by several students constitutes freedom of speech or a classroom disruption and merits student discipline," the statement read. "Vacaville Unified's Administration is continuing its investigation of this reported classroom disruption. We are reviewing the impact of this disruption and the student grading policy. Certainly a blessing by one individual to another after a sneeze is a welcomed acknowledgement of a social norm. Hopefully it is not abused as a disruption of classroom instructional activities."


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