Inspirational Messages in Florida Schools

Tue, Jul 10, 2012

General Legal Issues

Inspirational Messages in Florida SchoolsFlorida Senate Bill 98 was proposed by Senators Siplin, Evers, Storms, and Negron in an effort to allow inspirational messages to be allowed in schools. Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law, to be effective July 1st, 2012.

The law only allows students to express inspirational messages in celebration of special events or occasions. School officials must not be involved. They cannot review the message, decide the message, state the message themselves, or pick which student can say the message.

What is an inspirational message?  Some are interpreting it as prayer. Others are providing broader definitions of it, saying it is not strictly for religious inspirational messages but could be applied to other types of uplifting speech.

Proponents of the law feel that poor behavior has increased since school prayer was taken out of schools and that allowing this type of messaging will temper it. Opponents feel that this is a violation of Constitutional restrictions on the unity of church and state.  Some also feel that certain students might be spreading messages that are inappropriate or promote hate, rather than peace and kindness.

Since the law allows for the student organizing an event or assembly to have full control of choosing the message and who can say the message, some groups are concerned that officials will not be able to intervene and stop messages when they need to. Some lawmakers attempted to change the wording of the law to allow for such ability or regulation, but it was struck down.

It seems to be at the discretion of each county’s school board whether they will adopt the inspirational message policy. SmithLaw found this recent article that suggests school boards are not looking at adopting the law quickly. At this time, there seems to be no official stance by the Sarasota or Manatee County School Boards on whether they will be adopting this law.

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