When someone sneezes, it's common for a person in the vicinity to respond, "bless you."
But for making that remark, students in Steven Cuckovich's high school health class in Vacaville, Calif. lost 25 points off a test. The next day, someone used the phrase again when a student sneezed, and Will C. Wood High School student Erica Fagan told KXTV that Cuckovich docked points off everyone's grades.
The punishment has nothing to do with religion, Cuckovich tells KTXL News in Sacramento. Rather, it's about deterring students from being disruptive in class and interrupting learning time.
"The blessing doesn't really make sense anymore," Cuckovich told KTXL. "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 evil spirits. But today, what you're doing really doesn't make sense."
Parents aren't pleased, and the school's principal agrees that the punishment doesn't fit the offense. But Cuckovich says students will still face consequences for the act, just in a less severe way, The Christian Post reports.
Students also told KXTV that the sneezing-response rule isn't in the syllabus for the class -- a one-semester course required for graduation.
The Vacaville Unified School District issued a statement Thursday saying that it's investigating "this reported classroom disruption," as Cuckovich "believed that students were dramatically sneezing and responding in a repetitive fashion, 'bless you,'" KGO-TV reports.
A federal appeals court in California ruled this month in favor of a school's decision that a math teacher for Poway Unified School District cannot display banners proclaiming "In God We Trust," "One Nation Under God," "God Bless America" and "God Shed His Grace On Thee."