A moment of silence in schools is momentarily a moot proposal after recent legislative committee action.
The bill would have required schools to start each day with a moment of silence up to one minute during which time students and staff may “engage in voluntary prayer, reflection, meditation, or other quiet, respectful activity” but may not “be construed to permit schools to conduct the moment of silence as a religious exercise.”
ASBSD opposed the bill with Executive Director Wade Pogany sharing with committee members students and staff have opportunities “to pray today” in schools and the South Dakota Constitution states, “The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never infringed” upon by government.
South Dakota Education Association Lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy testified he had spoken an elementary teacher about the potential moment of silence being implemented and how they might go about it in class to which the teacher told him they would have the students put their heads on their desk “because that focuses them” which would violate the proposed law.
“You can’t tell the kids the posture they must have,” Murphy said, expressing the potential difficulty it posed to teachers.
Indeed, HB 1015 prohibited any school employee from dictating the activity during the moment of silence and barred any other student from interfering with another student during the silent period.
Alan Cambon, a Policy Advisor for the governor’s office, said the bill would help reduce the burden on teachers” and “serve as a valuable learning opportunity.” He added 15 other states had passed a similar law that served as a reference for this proposal.
When asked by Rep. Mike Stevens, a committee member and former school board member, if any South Dakota school districts were consulted Cambon said “we didn’t talk directly to school districts.”
Rep. Sue Peterson, Vice Chair of the committee, asked Cambon if there were any schools that reached out to the governor’s office with “positive” suggestions to the fix the bill and Rep. Scott Odenbach, a committee member and former school board member, said schools need to “help this bill to actually be beneficial” and despite his “reservations” with it he was “going to support this bill.”
Rep. Stevens did not share the sentiments.
“I don’t think that should be an indictment upon the school districts,” Rep. Stevens shared with colleagues, adding he didn’t believe “it’s the school district’s responsibility” to fix the bill.
While HB 1015 is currently shelved, it could face a smokeout vote on the House floor that would require it be delivered to the House floor for debate and vote, should the smokeout vote be passed.
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