Today, Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) filed a bill entitled:
Moments of Silence in Public Schools: Requires principals to require teachers to set aside time for moment of silence; prohibits teachers from making suggestions to nature of any reflection during moment of silence; deletes provision authorizing district school boards to provide brief period of silent prayer or meditation; requires certain teachers encourage parents or guardians to discuss moment of silence & make suggestions as to the best use of this time.
IS IT CONSTITUTIONAL FOR A PUBLIC SCHOOL TO REQUIRE A “MOMENT OF SILENCE”?
Yes, if, and only if, the moment of silence is genuinely neutral. A neutral moment of silence that does not encourage prayer over any other quiet, contemplative activity will not be struck down, even though some students may choose to use the time for prayer. (See Bown v. Gwinnett County School Dist., 11th Cir. 1997)
If a moment of silence is used to promote prayer, it will be struck down by the courts. In Wallace v. Jaffree (1985) the Supreme Court struck down an Alabama “moment of silence” law because it was enacted for the express purpose of promoting prayer in public schools. At the same time, however, the Court indicated that a moment of silence would be constitutional if it is genuinely neutral. Many states and local school districts currently have moment-of-silence policies in place.
The bill’s text is as follows:
The district school board may install in the public schools in the district a secular program of education including, but not limited to, an objective study of the Bible and of religion.
The Legislature finds that in today’s hectic society too few persons are able to experience even a moment of quiet reflection before plunging headlong into the activities of daily life. Young persons are particularly affected by the absence of an opportunity for a moment of quiet reflection. The Legislature finds that our youth, and society as a whole, would be well served if students in the public schools were afforded a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day.
The principal of each public school shall require teachers in first-period classrooms in all grades to set aside at least 1 minute, but not to exceed 2 minutes, daily, for a moment of silence, during which students may not interfere with other students’ participation. A teacher may not make suggestions as to the nature of any reflection that a student may engage in during the moment of silence.
Each first-period classroom teacher shall encourage parents or guardians to discuss the moment of silence with their children and to make suggestions as to the best use of this time.
This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.