Health teacher bans students from saying “bless you” after a sneeze

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Onion story? Nope. Health teacher Steve Cuckovich of William C. Wood High School in Vacaville, California actually put the kibosh on students offering up a "bless you" in response to a sneeze. Cuckovich thought that kids were being wiseacres and sneezing overdramatically with the intention of disrupting class, with the "bless yous" being part of the mischievous plot. (Or maybe they just had pepper steak for lunch?)

Cuckovich believes that all that polite well-wishing is disrespectful. He actually went so far as docking twenty-five points from one student's grade for having the gall to utter the phrase. He claims that his policy has nothing to do with religion, but rather thinks that the phrase is obsolete and anachronistic. Cuckovich said:

"When you sneezed 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 the evil spirits. But today, I said really what you're doing doesn't make any sense anymore."

There seems to be confusion about the origin of "God bless you" or just "Bless you" in response to a sneeze. I know I've been told that the heart supposedly stops when you sneeze, and the little benison is encouragement for pulmonary continuity. But there are other theories as well. 

After some parents complained that Cuckovich's (you notice I've been resisting using the word "cuckoo" here) rule was anti-religious, he had to bend and discontinue his point-deduction penalties. But he says he'll find another way to discipline students for their troublemaking "bless yous." Just you try him. 

The district weighed in on the issue Thursday, in the person of Superintendent John Niederkorn. According to Niederkorn:

"The teacher believed that students were dramatically sneezing and responding in repetitive fashion "Bless You." 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. 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."