"We can't discuss discipline issues because of right to privacy of students, but I can say there are two sides to every story," said DCHS Assistant Principal Lynn Garner. "Sometimes people spin things and turn them to make them seem one way, but I cannot discuss anything specific in order to protect the child."
The incident involved 17-year-old Kendra Turner, a senior at the high school. Turner was in class on Monday morning and said 'bless you' after a fellow classmate sneezed. The phrase was listed on the chalkboard as one of several students were not supposed to say during class, according to Turner.
"We're not allowed to say bless you, my bad, hang out, dumb, stupid, stuff, and things like that," said Turner.
Garner acknowledged the respective teachers at the high school are given the opportunity to set classroom rules as long as those rules fall within the guidelines of the student handbook.
"We allow the teachers to set rules in the classroom that work best for them and I think that's fair," added Garner. "We really stress what we call reasonable request. If a teacher asks his or her students to do something reasonable to avoid a distraction in the classroom, then we expect the students to follow the rules. If it's not a reasonable request then we'll sit down and talk about it to get it right."
In the incident on Monday, when the teacher, a 40-year respected veteran of the school system, stood up and asked which student made the 'bless you' comment, Turner acknowledged it was her who did so.
"She asked why I said it, and I told her I was being courteous and she asked me who told me that it was courtesy?" added Turner. "I told her my pastor and my parents taught me to say it."
Shortly after, Turner was reportedly instructed to go to the principal's office, where she was placed in ISS for the remainder of the period. The decision by the DCHS administration to place Turner in ISS was one normally followed on a daily basis according to Garner. Once classes changed, Turner was allowed to attend her next class.
"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," said Garner. "Also, it gives us a chance to find out what the situation is and what happened in the classroom for them to be in the office in the first place. 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."
On Tuesday afternoon, at a press conference held at Dyersburg First Assembly of God, Turner wanted to end the incident and move forward in a positive manner while putting God first.
"I want God to be able to be talked about in school. I want them to realize that God is in control and they're not," said Turner. "I also don't want the teacher being bashed because that's kind of harmful and disrespectful."
While Garner also acknowledged his readiness to put the incident behind him, he remained confident in the role of the teachers at the high school.
" I think this has really been blown out of proportion on social media, but I will say this in regard for our teachers. There is not one here I don't trust my own kids with and my kids are here and other relatives are here or have been here. I trust the teachers and beyond a shadow of a doubt all of our teachers have the students best interest at heart," added Garner. "They treat the kids with respect, and I think the majority of the students believe the teachers genuinely care about them."