Moment of silence could become school requirement
Florida school students would be required to begin their classroom day with two minutes of silence under legislation that cleared the Senate Education Committee on Monday.
For several years schools have allowed teachers the option of giving students two minutes for silent reflection before the start of the day. But Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, wants to change that to a daily requirement.
“I think it’s a very simple idea brought to me by some very special friends,” Baxley told the committee.
Among those prompting the legislation is Rabbi Schneur Oierechman of Tallahassee.
“There’s a lot of darkness in our world today … this will bring a lot of light into children, into the school,” Oierechman said.
The measure, however, edges too close to requiring prayer in school, critics said. Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, was the lone vote against the bill Monday, saying that she still remembers being among only six Jewish students at her elementary school.
“I worry when you do this moment of silence; it puts students who are from a different faith or atheists … in an uncomfortable situation,” Berman said.
The bill (SB 946) was approved 6-1 by the panel. Similar legislation (HB 737) in the House, filed by Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels, is still awaiting its first hearing.
“I think a moment of mindfulness … is a good thing,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who added that she does not see it based on “religion or religious practice.”
But Devon Graham, assistant state director of the organization American Atheists, said the requirement went too far.
“This legislation lacks any guidelines protecting the First Amendment rights of students who would be subject to religious coercion,” she said. “It’s a wasteful use of scarce educational resources.”