JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Public schools would be required to hold a moment of silence, at the start of each day, under a new bill making its way through the Florida Senate. The bill was approved by a key committee earlier this week, and a similar measure is gaining some traction in the House.
The house version was filed by Democratic Representative Kimberly Daniels from Jacksonville.
Part of the text reads: "The Legislature finds that in the hectic society of today, 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."
Anthony Stevens’ grandchildren attend Duval County public schools.
"I mean, it's a great idea. It doesn't hurt, it always helps," Stevens said. "It puts everybody in a positive frame of mind."
Right now, teachers have the option to hold a moment of silence. There’s a concern among some that could put students of different faiths in an uncomfortable situation.
The bill specifically says the moment of silence must last at least 1 minute, but cannot exceed 2 minutes. It also says teachers will not be able to make suggestions as to how students would use that time.
"The way the world is reacting, you've got to have something to fall back on," Stevens said.
While some News4jax spoke with are on board with the idea, not everyone agrees.
News4jax reached out to the group, American Atheists. Its president, Nick Fish, says the proposal too closely resembles religion in public schools.
“The fact that this bill amends a section of Florida law that provides for Bible study in schools shows what this is really all about: unconstitutional religious coercion of public school students. I urge lawmakers to focus on the real problems facing Florida’s schools rather than spending their time trying to force religion into classrooms,” a statement reads in part.
Rep. Kimberly Daniels also successfully pushed for a law to add the words “In God We Trust” to signs in Florida’s public schools. The bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
If passed, this new proposal would take effect in July 2020.