Beginning on October 12, every child in Illinois public schools is required to observe a moment of silence. At the start of the day, students at every grade level are now obligated to spend a period of time praying, pondering the day’s events, or otherwise reflecting on their lives. For teachers or students who refuse or for those who forget to observe this momen of silence, there are no specific penalties outlined.
In 1969, a state law was established granting teachers an optional brief period of silence at the beginning of the day.However, some complained that it was carried outby some teachers and not others. This year a group of Democrats in the Illinois state legislature put together a bill to make it mandatory.
Many are outraged as they see the law as thinly veiled way to mandate prayer in public schools. Others point out that because children are bombarded with constant stimulation from external sources–ipods, videos, emails, text messages, television, and cell phones penetrate children’s lives more than ever before–a quiet moment is greatly needed to encourage inward reflection and show the value of silence. Some of the law’s supporters argue that this period will improve academic performance and behavior. Others go as farto say that school shootings, bullying, and violence in the home may be prevented by allowing children this time for contemplation.
Does a mandated moment of silence represent the erosion of the separation between church and state? Is it the “right way to start off the day” for all of Illinois’ children? Does the optional, self-selection approach leave more room for individual teacher’s religious beliefs in the public space of the classroom? What is the appropriate punishment for the teachers and students who refuse to comply? How will this moment of silence impact in students’ lives?
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.