Steve Cuckovich believed "God bless you" was disrupting the class

11:20 AM, Oct 1, 2011   |    comments
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VACAVILLE (CBS 5) - A Vacaville teacher has admitted to marking down students' grades if they said, "God bless you" to a sneezing fellow student, but his school district bosses indicate there is more to the story.

Steve Cuckovich, a health teacher at Will C. Wood High school, was responding to what he saw as a "classroom disruption," according to a press release issued by Superintendent Dr. John Niederkorn of the Vacaville Unified School District.

"The teacher believed that the students were dramatically sneezing and responding in repetitive fashion, 'Bless you,'" wrote Niederkorn.

But the teacher gave a different reason to a  TV reporter, saying he was trying to educate students that blessings are antiquated and based on superstitions. 

"The blessing doesn't really make sense anymore," Cuckovich said. "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, I said what you're doing doesn't really make any sense anymore."

The school district is investigating the incident to see whether the incident is a violation of free speech or a disruption that merits discipline, said Niederkorn in the statement. "One of the concerns is the social convention of saying, 'Gesundheit,' 'God Bless You,' or 'Bless You' after someone sneezes," Niederkorn said.

"Certainly a blessing by one individual to another is a welcomed acknowledgement of a social norm," said Niederkorn. "Hopefully it is not abused as a disruption of a classroom instructional activities."

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.) 

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