On Ash Wednesday, February 21, a Catholic female
student at White County High School in Cleveland, Georgia had her
ashes wiped off her forehead by a substitute teacher in her Honors
Trigonometry class. When the girl’s classmates protested, the teacher
laced into the girl making patently untrue and derisive statements
On March 5, Catholic League president Bill Donohue
wrote to Paul Shaw, superintendent of the White County Board of
Education, wanting to know what disciplinary measures would be taken
against the teacher. In his letter of March 21, Shaw said, “I am aware
of the incident and believe the principal resolved the matter in an
appropriate manner. He has met with [the girl] and her father to hear
concerns. The employee made an honest error in judgment and has been
appropriately counseled and cautioned and I believe a similar incident
will not be repeated.
Bill Donohue issued the following remarks today:
“I am now contacting Kathy Cox, Georgia’s State
Superintendent of Schools, asking her to investigate this matter.
Under Georgia’s Code of Ethics for Educators (505-6-.01), it has a
section on ‘Abuse of Students’ in Part (3b). The fourth example under
‘Standards’ says that unethical conduct includes ‘engaging in
harassing behavior on the basis of race, gender, sex, national origin,
religion or disability.’ Case closed.
“The offending teacher has since been dismissed from
White County High School, but for reasons wholly unrelated to this
incident. No matter, the real issue here is not the teacher, rather it
is Dr. Shaw. For him to say that a teacher in his employ made ‘an
honest error in judgment’ by wiping ashes off the forehead of a
Catholic student on Ash Wednesday—and then berated her in front of her
classmates—is beyond lame. It’s morally reprehensible.”
Superintendent Cox to do justice. Contact her at
Kiera M. McCaffrey is the director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.