North Bay News

School district stands behind anti-'Bless you' teacher

Thursday, September 29, 2011
Vacaville Unified School District sign Will C. Wood High School marquee Steven Cuckovich

A sneeze and a "God bless you" response in school is creating a storm of controversy.

Parents are demanding to know why the Vacaville Unified School District won't talk about the teacher who is lowering the grades of the sneezers and the blessers.

The question the Vacaville USD is investigating: What did veteran teacher Steven Cuckovich say, and why did he say it?

The controversy began after a worried parent tried to get the district to explain why her daughter's grade would suffer if she said "Bless you" to other students when they sneezed.

Vickie Fagan says Cuckovich asked if they thought the girl who sneezed was evil, and if evil spirits were coming out of her. The teacher then started disciplining students for saying "Bless you."

But the district issued a released today defending Cuckovich, saying the "teacher believed that students were dramatically sneezing and responding in repetitive fashion" with the blessing.

"Certainly a blessing by one individual to another after a sneeze is a welcomed acknowledgement of a social norm," school superintendent John Nickerdom, Ph.D. wrote in the release. "Hopefully it is not abused as a disruption of classroom instructional activities."

The district's version is supported by a testimony by Alex Eamer who is in Cuckovich's class.

"It's kind of like a chain reaction," Eamer explained, saying students would repetitively sneeze, followed by the blessing.

Student Sheri Eamer says Cuckovich explained the connection between sneezing and "Bless you."

"He explained a little bit, like about 18th Century -- how they used to say that because they thought sneezing got rid of demons or whatever," Eamer said.

Graduate Dallas Daniels, who was Cuckovich's teaching assistant for two years, said she's baffled by the criticism of her favorite teacher.

"I think that they're all overreacting," Daniels said. "He's one of the best teachers at Wood."

One grandparent, who happens to be an educator herself, said she understands the need to control the classroom, but she would be concerned if there were any religious or anti-religious undertones with the way things are being handled.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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vacaville, religion, north bay news, heather ishimaru
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