Dear LA Teacher,
I graduated from Hollywood High School in 1961. Throughout my schooling we had prayer in the schools. Prayer at the beginning of the school day anchored me. Then, in 1962 the U.S. Supreme Court shot down school prayer in its abhorrent decision in Engel vs Vitale. Overnight prayer in the classroom was banned. What can a grandmother do to change the laws so my granddaughter can pray to the Lord like I did when I was in school?
Dear Evangelical Grandma,
I for one am happy that teachers no longer open up a Bible and praise Jesus Christ in the classroom. As a Jew growing up in New York I found those daily prayers highly offensive.
However, I think a moment of silent prayer or reflection should be pushed. People like Avraham Frank, a Hasidic Jew, have been in the forefront of a “Moment of Silence” to be promoted in every classroom.
Here is how it works. A teacher or student announces a “Moment of Silence” over the school’s loudspeaker system. They then offer something to think about for that day. It could be a personal goal like improving reading or math skills. The speaker could suggest helping someone sick in the hospital. The list of potential thought moments is endless. Then, every student from pre-K through 12th grade, all the teachers, administrators, and support staff pauses for sixty seconds to think about their goals or to just thank God for a beautiful day. When it comes to the thoughts during those 60 seconds, it’s really up to the individual.
Texas passed a law requiring state schools to offer students a “Moment of Silence” to “reflect, pray, and meditate…” The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it in March 2009 after the American Civil Liberties Union objected to the law.
Avraham Frank says, “The Moment of Silence is good for the children so that they grow up to be upstanding citizens of society.” He goes on to point out that the “Moment of Silence” encourages morality, punctuality, and provides focus for the day.
Hadar Gafhi, assistant principal of P.S. 191 in New York City, a school that has had a “Moment of Silence “ for six years, says, “It focuses the children. They make their resolutions for the day and are ready to learn. We’re seeing tremendous academic growth in our kids.” P.S. 191 is in an impoverished neighborhood of Brooklyn serving 300 students of which 99% receive free or reduced-price lunches; and some live at the homeless shelter next door.
California and 28 other states honor the right of schools to promote a “Moment of Silence” in their classrooms. What parents and grandparents can do is become an activist and get other parents to sign a petition to initiate a “Moment of Silence” in their child’s school. Once the beehive is stirred, visit their child’s school, present the “Moment of Silence” petition to the principal, and see what happens.