PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem said Monday she has drafted legislation to create a moment of silence at the beginning of each day in South Dakota public schools, a move she said would “restore protections for prayer in school.”
A draft of the bill said it will provide students and teachers with a reprieve from the frenzy of daily life and set a tone of decorum conducive to learning. Students and teachers can engage in voluntary prayer, reflection, meditation or other quiet, respectful activity during the minute of silence, the bill states.
“Every student deserves the opportunity to begin their day with a calm, silent moment,” Noem said in a statement. “I hope students will take this opportunity to say a quick prayer or reflect on their upcoming day. However they choose to take advantage of this time, it will be beneficial to students and teachers alike.”
School employees would not be able to dictate the action to be taken by students or teachers during the moment of silence, and no student may interfere with how other classmates are engaged in the minute.
The Republican governor previewed the legislation earlier in 2021 when she made a vow to “put prayer back in South Dakota schools,” the release said. The bill, titled “A Moment of Silence,” looks to make good on that promise.
The bill’s draft said the moment of silence should not be construed as a religious exercise.
The bill isn’t Noem’s first attempt to introduce religion-inspired ideas into public schools.
In 2019, she successfully required the national motto “In God We Trust” be displayed in all public schools, sparking a national debate and drawing criticism from groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Madison, Wisconsin-based foundation argued it would lead to “more onerous things.”
South Dakota’s legislative session starts Jan. 11.