state legislature mandates silence, adds religion course > by Drew Smith
“I use that time to relax from stress and pray when I feel called to lift up a prayer request to God,” junior Carlie Johnson said.
Creating a one minute moment of silence at the beginning of each school day, Act 576 of the State of Arkansas 89th General Assembly encourages students to reflect, pray, or engage in a silent activity without distraction. “My perspective is that the biggest thing in my life is God. The moment of silence gives the opportunity to pray but doesn’t force the students to participate,” Representative Gary Deffenbaugh, who co-sponsored the bill, said. During the moment of silence, a teacher or school employee in charge must ensure that all students remain silent and do not interfere with or distract another student. “I don’t feel like it will be controversial. Use what the law allows. Take advantage of what you’re given,” Deffenbaugh said. Retired Van Buren teacher and coach, Deffenbaugh helped lead Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Deffenbaugh wants students to use the moment of silence to suit their needs. “I would pray during the moment of silence, if I was a student. When I was in school if someone wanted to pray there would be no problems. The diversity now has made it difficult,” Deffenbaugh said. Representative Charlotte Douglas, former teacher, also co-sponsored the bill. “It is an opportunity for kids with a lot of bad things happening in their home to sit there and gather themselves. It
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can be a real positive thing if the administration and the teachers go at it in a positive light,” Douglas said. Douglas believes teachers can benefit from the moment of silence as much as students can. “Teachers can use the moment as character training. If the kids can’t focus, the teachers can encourage them to think about something positive that they can do that day. I hear from the multitude of teachers
“The moment of silence is a good way to reflect on your day and what’s happened in the past days.” senior Derek Bolin that appreciate the moment of silence is that they want to pray for their students,” Douglas said. In the Arkansas Senate, Gary Stubblefield from Franklin County sponsored the bill. “Some kids are raised in rough environments. Those kids should have the moment of silence because it might be the only silence they get that day,” Stubblefield said. In a relation to Act 576, Stubblefield carried Act 1440 in the Senate which states that the State Board of Education shall allow for an elective academic study of the Bible course or courses that consist of nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influences on literature,
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art, music, culture, and politics to be offered to students in public school districts, if the academic study of the Bible meets the standards of the Act. “Lots of good things can come from a Bible elective course. The Act is not forcing anyone to take it,” Stubblefield said. Personnel shall not be assigned to teach the course based on any religious test, profession of faith or lack of faith, prior or present religious affiliation or lack of affiliation, or criteria involving particular beliefs or lack of beliefs about the Bible. “I think a Bible elective class would be beneficial to many students in our school. We are bombarded with different issues everyday and having a class focused on the Bible could be helpful on giving good advice and examples on how to deal with such issues,” junior Mason Polk said. The elective teaching projects the course in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religious or cultural traditions. “As a non-Christian, I do not support nor am I against a Bible elective course. Though we do follow separation of church and state, as long as it doesn’t affect other courses, I am neutral. Only problem is that it is not equal for other religions. If there is a bible course, allow other religious courses,” Nguyen said. This act does not require the state board to adopt new rules, standards, or curriculum frameworks.
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