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 the classroom.
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. “The legislature of South Dakota finds that schoolchildren and teachers are best served by a moment of silence at the start of every school day to afford them a reprieve from the frenzy of daily life and to set a tone of decorum that will be conducive to learning,” the legislation said.
Students and teachers can can engage in voluntary prayer, reflection, meditation or other quiet, respectful activity during the minute of silence, the bill states.
School employees would not be permitted to designate how students or teachers use the required moment of silence, and no student is permitted to “interfere with another student’s engagement in the moment of silence,” the legislation said.
The bill’s draft said the moment of silence should not be construed as a religious exercise.
This 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.