‘Moment of silence’ would be mandatory in Kentucky public schools under bill moved by House committee

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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By Jamie Lucke

Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky public schools would be required to begin each day with a moment of silence or reflection under a bill that was advanced Tuesday by the House Education Committee.

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Rep. Tina Bojanowski, a Louisville Democrat and public school teacher, opposed House Bill 96, saying it “reads as a bill that requires prayer during the school day” in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Bojanowski, D-Louisville, said students already are free to pray at school but that teacher-led prayer crosses the constitutional line.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daniel Fister, R-Versailles, responded that his bill is “parent driven” and that school personnel would be prohibited from instructing children on how to use the time other than “to sit quietly for a moment.”

“The child is just allowed a time to focus on whatever’s important to them, whether it be the dog ate my homework speech or whatever they want to work on,” said Fister, who also said “most schools are doing this anyway.”

HB 96 requires local school boards to create policies ensuring that “pupils remain seated and silent and make no distracting display so that each pupil may, in the exercise of his or her individual choice, meditate, pray, or engage in any other silent activity which does not interfere with, distract from, or impede other pupils’ exercise of individual choice.”

The bill says parents and guardians are to be notified of the policy and encouraged “to provide guidance” to their children on the moment of silence or reflection.

Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, asked Fister if it’s unreasonable to expect all students to remain seated and silent.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I mean, how do you teach a child that you can’t get to sit still anyway?’

The committee approved the bill 14-3 with three Democrats voting against it. Raymond called the measure “unnecessary Christian posturing.”