Florida Legislature mandates minute of silence at start of each school day

House+Bill+529+has+mandated+that+schools+in+Florida+provide+their+students+with+a+moment+of+silence+at+the+start+of+each+day.+MSD+Assistant+Principal+Daniel+Lechtman+announces+the+moment+of+silence+after+the+Pledge+of+Allegiance+and+before+the+morning+announcements.

Nya Owusu-Afriyie

House Bill 529 has mandated that schools in Florida provide their students with a moment of silence at the start of each day. MSD Assistant Principal Daniel Lechtman announces the moment of silence after the Pledge of Allegiance and before the morning announcements.

Julianne LoFurno, Sports editor

As Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School welcomes students and staff back for the new school year, there is an addition to the daily announcements. The moment of silence, commonly known to students and staff as a “mindful moment,” has made its debut in Florida schools following the passage of Florida House Bill 529.

HB 529, now Florida State Statute 1003.45, requires “principals of all Florida public schools to require teachers in each classroom to set aside a mandatory time for a moment of silence.” The moment is meant to occur during the first period of each school day, lasting at least one minute, but no longer than two minutes.

The bill passed through the Florida legislature with a vote of 94-24. Some legislators, such as Palm Bay Representative Randy Fine, advocated for the bill because it allows students time to reflect before the busy day ahead of them.

Although the bill pased, several legislators were against the proposed bill because they believe it is religiously motivated, even though it has no direct religious affiliation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill on June 14 at the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center, in Surfside, Florida. The bill went into effect on July 1.

At MSD, the moment of silence is wedged in between the pledge of allegiance and the morning announcements. Teachers are legally unable to advise students on how they should use their moment of silence. Teachers and students are given the opportunity to meditate, reflect, pray or do anything else quietly during this minute without interruption. Many staff members, teachers and students find this time helpful to collect themselves, especially with the pandemic looming over the highly-enrolled school of approximately 3,570 students.

“I usually tell my students to take a minute, take a breath and relax before we get started,” English teacher Andrea Kowalski-Rospierski said. “I use it to find a good head-space to get ready for school.”

Not everyone at MSD feels the state-mandated minute of silence is necessary. Although not opposed to the minute of silent freedom, several students feel that it does not impact their day in any significant way, or that the early time it occurs during the day is counterproductive.

“I don’t really see much purpose in it. I don’t know what one minute of reflecting on my life is gonna do to me, as I can reflect, honestly, at any time,” senior David Prengler said. “I don’t know why they’re gonna make me do it at 7:40 a.m. in the morning. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Although numerous students do not actively participate in the moment of silence, it has helped others cope with stress. Regardless of how students and staff feel about the new law, it is here to stay.

This story was originally published in the October 2021 Eagle Eye print edition.