Like millions of Catholics this past Wednesday, I attended Mass and began the season of Lent by having an ash cross marked on my forehead.

One student who also observed Ash Wednesday and went to school with an ash cross was forced to wash it off by a teacher, despite pleas from the boy that it was a symbol of his faith.

This teacher is now on leave.

A Utah school district has placed a teacher on administrative leave for forcing a 9-year-old student to remove the cross of ashes from his forehead on Ash Wednesday.

Student William McLeod, who is Catholic, was left crying and embarrassed by the experience in a Davis School District classroom, grandmother Karen Fisher said. The teacher told McLeod that the cross was inappropriate and forced him to wash it off, according to Fisher’s account of the incident.

“We take the matter very seriously and are investigating the situation. The teacher is currently on administrative leave,” Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams told USA TODAY in a written statement on Thursday.

“We are sorry about what happened and apologize to the student and the family for the teacher’s actions. The actions were unacceptable. No student should ever be asked or required to remove an ash cross from his or her forehead,” the statement reads.

And while this seems like a small victory for freedom of speech and freedom of religion in this country, it doesn’t diminish how upsetting this experience was for McLeod.

“The teacher walked over and said like, ‘What is that?’ And I was like it’s Ash Wednesday, and I’m Catholic. It’s the first day of Lent and was like, ‘No, it’s inappropriate. Go take it off,’” William said.

His attempt to explain the meaning of the symbol fell on deaf ears.

“She took me aside and she said, ‘You have to take it off.’ So she gave me a de-infection wipe, whatever they are called, and she made me wipe it off,” William said.

He said it happened as many of his classmates watched.

“They saw the teacher wipe it off because they wiped it off in front of all my friends,” William said. “I felt, like, really bad.”

The school’s principal called William’s grandmother as soon as she learned of the incident.

The teacher, who the AP identified as Moana Patterson, also called.

“I was pretty upset,” Karen Fisher said. “I asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment and she said, ‘No’ and ‘Ohhhh.’”

Interestingly, the coverage of the story seems to be limited to Fox News, local stations, and Christian media. One has to wonder what would have happened if a similar situation arose with a practice being followed by a Muslim or Wiccan student? Would it have been a press firestorm pointing out how deplorable a red state educational institution is?

It appears that President Donald Trump will be making free speech in higher education a key plank on his re-election platform. Based on the approach being taken by this nation’s educators, his timing could not be more perfect.