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.

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