Last summer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill requiring K-12 public schools to hold a moment of silence each day. Beginning in August and the start of the 2021-2022 school year, principals must require teachers to set aside one minute for a moment of silence. Teachers may not make suggestions regarding how a student chooses to observe the moment of silence, according to the law.
Before the mandate, observing a moment of silence was optional.
“It’s important to be able to provide each student the ability every day to reflect and be able to pray as they see fit,” DeSantis said. “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I’m sorry, our founding fathers did not believe that.”
Linda Scott, a paraprofessional at Gretchen Everhart in Tallahassee, isn’t sure the new law inspires freedom.
“I remember being told that I must stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and participate in the moment of silence when I was in school,” she said. “However, now that it is mandated I feel like students don’t have a choice anymore. I have worked for the Leon County School Board for 21 years, and I have never had to make students observe a moment of silence. It was always their choice if they wanted to.”
Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna recently sent out a notice to parents and employees regarding the new mandate.
“In accordance with section 1003.45, Florida Statutes, the district will observe a moment of silence each school day this year,” Hanna said in the email. “Families are encouraged to discuss the moment of silence with their child(ren) and to make suggestions as to the best use of this time.”
Rykia Jackson, a first-year teacher at Gretchen Everhart, would prefer if everyone had a choice.
“Everyone should have a choice on whether or not they want to participate. Some people are not religious so I don’t think it should be mandated. For those who are religious, this may be a very good thing for them. We live in a country where we should be able to express ourselves freely and choose what we want freely,” she said.
While some people may see the mandate as a respectful step forward, others believe that it violates the required separation of church and state.
“Many students may feel that the state is supporting their beliefs, and for some, it may feel liberating in a sense,” said Fitzroy Roberts, a freshman at Tallahassee Community College. “However, I feel like those who choose not to participate may be ostracized by their peers. This is a direct violation of church and state in my opinion. Mixing personal beliefs with business never works out.”