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Kentucky House committee passes bill requiring moment of silence in schools

FILE - Flags stand in front of the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on April 7, 2021. The Kentucky House overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, instructing public schools to set aside time for a moment of silence at the start of each school day. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday instructing public schools to set aside time for a moment of silence at the start of each school day.

The measure easily cleared the House on a 79-17 vote and moves on to the Senate. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.

Under the bill, the moment of silence would last one to two minutes at the start of the first class each day in public schools across the Bluegrass State. Students would decide how to use that time, and school personnel would be prohibited from instructing them on their silent reflection. Parents would be notified of the policy and encouraged to offer guidance to their children on how to spend that time.

Every student would be expected to remain seated and silent during that time.

During the House debate, Democratic Rep. Tina Bojanowski said she sees the bill as "a way to push prayer into public schools,” adding that it raises constitutional concerns.

Public schools were barred from leading students in classroom prayer following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling decades ago that said it violated a First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a government religion.

Another critic of the bill, Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond, said: "This is something that belongs in the home realm for families to discuss with their children.”

In praising the bill, Republican Rep. Tom Smith said what has been lacking in schools is taking the "time to thank God for our day. And I think that’s what’s going to watch over our education and our kids.”

The bill's lead sponsor is Republican Rep. Daniel Fister.

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The legislation is House Bill 96.