PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A House committee has rejected Governor Kristi Noem’s proposal to require public schools in South Dakota to have a moment of silence to start the day.
Noem first launched the idea at a conservative Christian conference last year as “putting prayer back in schools.” But the House Education Committee rejected HB 1015 Friday morning, voting 9-6 against it, after lobbyists representing public schools, teachers and administrators argued that voluntary prayer is already allowed and the proposed law would have saddled teachers with an unclear mandate that lacked a way to be enforced.
“It’s not necessary. You can do this today,” Associated School Boards of South Dakota executive director Wade Pogany said.
“We also heard that this is up to a minute and could be zero-point-five seconds — in other words, it could have no effect whatsoever,” Representative Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, said.
Representative Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, asked Allen Cambon, a policy advisor to the governor, “How many schools did you contact about this?”
Cambon replied, “We talked with the (state) Department of Education’s office. We saw they were doing this in lots of other states. So the governor felt it was a good opportunity to return a sense of decorum and civic appreciation to our schools, and that’s why we brought the bill.”
“My question was,” Stevens told him, “how many school districts did you contact?”
“We didn’t talk directly with school districts with this bill,” Cambon answered.
“You didn’t talk to anybody?” Stevens asked.
“That’s fair to say,” Cambon said.
Representative Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, called for the committee’s endorsement. But Stevens made a substitute motion, asking for its defeat.
The governor could use a procedure known as a smoke-out — officially, rule 6F-6 — on the House floor in an attempt to revive it.
Representative Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, acknowledged the bill wasn’t perfect but wanted it to go forward. Odenbach said he checked with people in his community.
“One of the things I heard from religious leaders that helped deal with my concerns over this was there are those that are going to be on top of this issue as religious leaders and give maybe prayer materials and whatever to the kids in their parish or church to use during this time,” Odenbach said.
“And I think if those types of folks step up and help this bill to actually be beneficial, then perhaps we have to address some of the issues in the future that we see as problems, I think it can be a start to it,” he said.
Voting to kill it were representatives Sydney Davis, Drew Dennert, Erin Healy, Phil Jensen, Jennifer Keintz, Paul Miskimins, Mortenson, Stevens, and Lana Greenfield. Trying to keep it alive were representatives Hugh Bartels, Fred Deutsch, Sam Marty, Odenbach, Bethany Soye, and Peterson.