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Is God bless you a classroom distraction?
A professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley recently banned the phrase 'God bless you' from class. Is that justified? - photo by Herb Scribner
A professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley wants to change sneezing forever.

Local Texas news station Valley Central reported the teachers 2015 fall semester syllabus included the instruction Please refrain from saying, God bless you during class.

Soon after the syllabus reached student hands, it went viral across the Internet and has caused controversy among students and experts about whether the phrase should be banned, according to Valley Central.

"It's kind of ridiculous, first amendment, freedom of religion. Its there. We shouldn't have to block that out of school," Marcos Villarreal, a student at UTRGV, told Valley Central.

The university listened to the student outrage and removed the ban from the classroom syllabus, according to Campus Reform.

But before changing the ban, university officials told Valley Central the professors intent wasnt to limit religious freedom, but rather to avoid classroom distractions.

"The professor's syllabus sought to identify examples of potentially disruptive behavior the professor believed could hinder the classroom learning environment, including use of cellphones, officials told Valley Central. The intent was not to limit the religious freedoms of UTRGV students, but to avoid unsolicited comments that might distract others."

Talking students, whether constant or on occasion, can be a major distraction for students, according to Duquesne Universitys Center for Teaching Excellence. And students who regularly talk during instruction not only disrupt their own learning, but could keep other students from learning, too, Duquesne University explained.

Students can also cause distractions by using their smartphones and other technological devices too often in class, Psychology Today reported. This is why some researchers have said classrooms should ban cell phones to keep students focused, according to Deseret News National's Tyler Stahle.

To help avoid distractions, Duquesne recommends teachers include a classroom behavior policy in their syllabus so that students dont engage in these distracting behaviors early on in the semester.

If you emphasize the relationship between student behaviors and successful learning in your policy, students will perceive that your foremost concern is their learning, according to Duquesne. Focus your policy on the benefit of civil behavior to learning.

Teachers may also want to build a strong rapport with their students so they can easily talk to them about these distractions, Duquesne reported. This will also help teachers know what issues students may feel passionately about, which could help teachers avoid controversial issues like UTRGV suffered from its syllabus.

Even in large classes, the old technique of having each student fill out a note card about their major, year, hometown and interests can be useful. In combination with a photo roster, faculty of large classes can learn students names, according to Duquesne. "If you begin to see disturbing behavior, casually addressing a student by their name can quickly lead to a cessation of the behavior.