Requiring daily moments of silence in schools is gaining wider support

Requiring schools to offer moments of silence in schools had bipartisan support in Arizona.
By: | April 14, 2022
Surrounded by religious leaders and other supporters, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law allowing Arizona students to observe a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. (Photo: Office of the Arizona Governor)Surrounded by religious leaders and other supporters, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law allowing Arizona students to observe a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. (Photo: Office of the Arizona Governor)

It’s not a moment of prayer in schools, it’s Arizona’s daily moment of silence in schools. And it’s bipartisan. And it’s required.

All schools in the state must now let students take a one- to two-minute moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. Whether kids meditate, pray, or run through test questions in their heads is up to them and their families, backers of the bill say.

“As we’re working to get Arizona kids refocused in the classroom, we should also work to get them refocused emotionally,” Gov. Doug Ducey said after signing the bill. “This gives our kids the opportunity to take time to remember, reflect, meditate, pray, prepare for the day ahead or anything they—and their parents—choose.” On Twitter, Ducey added that the new law benefits “kids of all faiths.”

The measure, which earned bipartisan support, was initially sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Alma Hernandez, who has advocated for women’s rights, criminal justice reform, and equitable health care. “Giving students a moment every school day to pray, gather their thoughts, reflect or anything they choose to do will help them focus and strengthen their mental and emotional health,” Hernandez said.

Students are not allowed to “interfere” with other students as they are observing a moment of silence. Teachers or other staff cannot make suggestions to students about how to spend the time, the law says.

The measure had particularly strong support from some members of the state’s Jewish community, of which Hernandez is an active member. The date of the bill signing honored the 120th birthday of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a highly influential religious leader who called for a daily moment of silence in schools after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

The new rule frustrated some in the state who argued that Arizona’s students have far more pressing needs. The Arizona Republic posted a column titled: “No more money for schools or quality teachers, but hey kids, here’s a moment of silence.” Earlier this week, a bill Ducey signed to revamp Arizona’s teacher certification process—meant to help schools cope with staff shortages—was criticized by some as lowering the state’s standards for quality education.

Many states allow schools to give students a moment of reflection time and fewer states mandate it. Florida began requiring a daily moment of silence in schools last year after a measure sponsored solely by Republican legislators became law. A bill to force the practice in Ohio schools failed last year.


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