Florida Politics | Haley Brown |March 18, 2021
Critics argue the inclusion should be left to school boards.
Rep. Randy Fine’s bill requiring a moment of silence in public schools passed the House floor on a mostly party line vote of 94-24.
It’s not the first time. The bill is similar to legislation passed on the House floor in a prior Session that died in the Senate. That time it was sponsored by Rep. Kim Daniels.
This year’s effort (HB 529) would require a one- to two-minute moment of silence at the start of the school day in K-12 classrooms in public schools.
“Every child can benefit from a time, whether you’re Jewish or Christian or you don’t believe in God at all, every child will benefit from this time to be centered before the beginning of the day,” Fine told the House Education and Employment Committee Wednesday.
On the House floor Thursday, Fine said what a child does with that time is entirely up to the student. The only requirement is they are quiet.
Under the bill, teachers and other students cannot instruct the child how to use the moment of silence, but teachers can encourage students to have a discussion about how to use the moment of silence with their parents or guardians.
Current law allows but does not require schools to set aside up to two minutes each day or each week to give students the opportunity for prayer or meditation.
Detractors of the bill said the decision to implement a moment of silence should be left to school boards.
“The simple fact is that this not entirely unreasonable procedure is already permitted,” Rep. Joseph Gellar said. “What we have works. Every single county has the right to do this, their school boards just have to take a vote. Why are we in the business of telling counties that don’t want to do this that they have to do this?”
Gellar voted against the bill.
“I don’t really care about the rights of the local school boards. I care about the rights of our kids and their parents to have this time,” Wright said.
Senate companion legislation (SB 282) sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley is on its second of three committees. Next up is the Judiciary committee.