Lifestyle & Belief

Teacher bans "Bless You" from classroom


Pope John Paul II sneezes during his weekly general audience at the Vatican in 2005.


Patrick Hertzgog

A teacher in California has reportedly banned students from saying "God Bless You" after a sneeze. He docked 25 points off a student's grade for using the phrase at a Bay Area high school.

Steve Cuckovich, a health teacher at William C Wood High School in Vacaville, told ABC30 in Fresno, that he finds the old fashioned courtesy disruptive to his class. Parents were furious with him, stating that his claim was anti religions, but he claims that his actions weren't religious in nature at all, reports the Washington Post blog.

Rather, he explains any type of talking is disruptive to the class, and takes away from the lesson at hand, repots MSNBC. Moreover, the blessing makes no sense.
"When you sneezed in the old days, they though 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."

But Cuckovich listened to the parents, and won't be deducting points any longer. However, he maintains that he will continue to control the classroom.

Superintendent John Niederkorn elaborated on the situation and said that Cuckovich thought the students were sneezing in a dramatic fashion to distrupt the class.

According to MSNBC Niederkorn released a statement on the issue:

"It was brought to the District’s attention a few days ago that students were disciplined for being disruptive in class. The teacher believed that students were dramatically sneezing and responding in repetitive fashion “Bless You”. One of the concerns is the social convention of saying “Gesundheit”, “God Bless You”, or “Bless You” after someone sneezes. 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. 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."

But banning religious elements from the classroom isn't a new trend, as the Globe and Mail points out. 

Nativity scenes were banned in New York in 2002, Ottawa schools got attention when they removed "Christmas" from the song "Silver Bells" and Italy, the predominantly Catholic country, has banned all crosses from schools. 

Cuckovich has also gotten quite some attention from the blogosphere.

Danielle Sullivan, mommy blogger at, wrote that: "Many of us were raised immediately saying bless you when any person sneezes and for a lot of us, it's completely automatic."

She didn't stop there.

"What's next? Should holding the door for one another be banned because it promotes the spread of germs or holds up the line? Perhaps we should also ban 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry.'"