Legislation that would require public-school students to have a moment of silence at the start of each school day is ready to be considered on the House and Senate floors.
The Senate Rules Committee on Monday signed off on a bill (SB 946) that would direct principals and teachers to give students up to two minutes each day to reflect on anything they want.
‘The full House on Tuesday is scheduled to consider a similar bill (HB 737), sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville. Senate sponsor Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, told the Rules Committee on Monday that a moment of silence could help set a “different tone” for the day. “Even a moment can change your perspective on a lot of things,” Baxley said.
Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he thinks the bill could be one of the most important proposals of the legislative session and pointing to students’ freedom of expression. Under the House and Senate bills, teachers would not be allowed to tell students what to reflect on.
But the bills would require teachers to "encourage" parents to make suggestions to their children as to the best use of their time. State law currently gives school districts the option to set aside time for students to silently pray or meditate at the start of the school day or once a week. But it is not a requirement.
Opponents of the bills have argued that requiring a moment of silence is likely to entangle public schools with religion and ensnare school districts in costly lawsuits.
Also, they said it could lead to non-religious students being singled out. Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, said the proposal would be an “end run on the prohibition against mixing church and state.”