Kendra Turner was following her parents' guidance when she said "bless you" after classmate sneezed, but says the courteous comment resulted in her suspension.
"[The teacher] asked why I said it, and I told her I was being courteous and she asked me who told me that it was courtesy? I told her my pastor and my parents taught me to say it." Turner told the Dyersburg State Gazette
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The 17-year-old was subsequently sent to the principal's office and placed on suspension.
But Dyer County High School (DCHS) officials say there is more to the story.
"We can't discuss discipline issues because of right to privacy of students, but I can say there are two sides to every story," DCHS Assistant Principal Lynn Garner told the State Gazette.
Garner said privacy laws prevented her from addressing specifics about the case, but added that "sometimes people spin things and turn them to make them seem one way."
During class, Turner turned to a fellow student who had just sneezed and said "bless you," after which her teacher turned around to immediately ask who had just spoken.
Turner was then sent to the principal's office and placed on in-school suspension for the remainder of the class period. She was permitted to attend her next class.
Principal Garner said placing a student on such a suspension is not uncommon and provides administrators a chance to determine why a student was sent to his office in the first place.
"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," Garner said.
He said the suspension had little to do with religion.
"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," he said.
Turner, however, described a more confrontational encounter during an interview with Memphis' Fox 13. She quoted the teacher as saying, "This is not your pastor's classroom," and another official suggested that maybe she should be taught by her pastor if she did not want to follow her teacher's rules.
Story continues below the video.
Turner also offered more details at a news conference held on Tuesday at the Dyersburg First Assembly of God.
"I want God to be able to be talked about in school," Turner said, according to The Associated Press.
Turner said it was not her wish that the teacher be reprimanded because "that's kind of harmful and disrespectful" and said it was her wish to place the incident behind her and to move forward.
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