Come next school year, all of Florida’s public school students might have to walk into their classrooms first thing in the morning, sit down at their desks and prepare for a daily moment of silence that could last up to two minutes.
That’s because the Florida Senate passed legislation on Thursday, which would require that every first-period teacher set aside one to two minutes for a moment of silence. That would be every school day, meaning roughly 180 days in the academic year.
The bill’s next stop is the governor’s desk, and if Gov. Ron DeSantis agrees with the bill, students across Florida will start their day with a moment to reflect on the day ahead.
The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican who represents part of Brevard County. Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican who represents Sumter County and parts of Lake and Marion counties, sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
Moments of silence are not uncommon in Florida schools currently.
According to a legislative analysis, school districts are already allowed to choose if schools can participate in a daily or weekly moment of silence. In times of tragedy, such as the death of a student or following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, schools often use a moment of silence to mourn as a group.
But this legislation would require that all schools engage in a daily moment of silence, affecting all students in every grade.
The bill specifies that the first-period teacher would initiate the moment of silence, meaning that the first-period teacher will likely lose at least one minute of instruction every day of the school year.
Teachers are not supposed to provide instruction on what to do with the time. Instead, teachers would encourage parents to discuss with their child how that time should be used.
Sen. Baxley said that the bill will be helpful because “because the world’s in chaos,” and the moment of silence will help students gather themselves.
“If they do nothing but sit and meditate, for one minute, it can make a world of difference,” Baxley said Thursday.
While supporters of the bill believe it will offer students a brief reprieve from the stresses of daily life, others worry that it’s an excuse to bring prayer into public schools. In fact, some members of atheist organizations have spoken out against the measure.
Sen. Gary Farmer, a Democrat who represents part of Broward County and serves as the Senate Minority Leader, had similar concerns.
“I understand the spirit with which the bill was brought, but I do think it has a consequence of negatively impacting something that is very important to this state and this country, which is the separation of church and state.”
–Danielle Brown, Florida Phoenix