1998 Regular Session
By: Representatives Smith (35th), Cummings, Frierson, Gadd, Howell, Janus, Ketchings, Manning, Martinson, Moore, Morris, Rotenberry, Smith (39th), Stribling, Weathersby
House Bill 1226
AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE SCHOOL DISTRICTS, IN THEIR DISCRETION, TO TEACH CHARACTER EDUCATION; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
WHEREAS, today's young people will be the stewards of our communities, nation and world in critical times, and the present and future well-being of our society requires an involved, caring, educated citizenry with good character; and
WHEREAS, many of our young people are not receiving instruction in the area of character and no longer have any moral anchor by which to be guided; thus, crime and violence among adolescents are continually mounting; and
WHEREAS, our founding fathers realized, in the words of John Adams, that "our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other," and the Northwest Ordinance established that religion and morality would be taught in the public schools; and
WHEREAS, the free exercise of our liberties, among which are freedom of conscience, the right to private property and the free exercise of religion, require that we be a people capable of self-government, which demands an understanding and embracing of absolute moral principles by which to live; and
WHEREAS, failure to ground character instruction in well-defined first principles leads to confusion among our young people and adoption of relativism and rootless values; and
WHEREAS, America has moved so far from her Bible-based founding principles that she will no longer allow Scripture in her public schools, yet some neutral source by which these absolute, constant, fundamental standards of right and wrong can be defined, must be found if she is to regain her moral compass; and
WHEREAS, most character programs, as well as a resolution in Congress to establish a character education week, are now stating that the characteristics our children need should stem from our founding documents: NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) Each public school district, in its discretion, may include a program of character education in its curriculum. However, nothing in this section shall be construed to require school districts to teach character education.
(2) Any school district that elects to teach character education in the schools within that district shall have the discretion to determine which character traits will be incorporated into the district's program of character education.
(3) In order to assure that the character traits taught by any public school in the State of Mississippi are in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, the Constitution of the United States of America and the Declaration of Independence, and to assure that the definitions of those character traits stem from a neutral source yet still contain the language that can communicate what the specified character traits meant at the time of the founding of the democratic republic, all character traits taught in the public schools must be defined in such a manner as to reflect the meaning of that time period, as found in the Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary.
(4) No character education program taught in any public school shall define character traits in a manner that defies the spirit set forth in the founding documents of this state and country, teaches character in such a manner as to encourage behavior that goes against the spirit and letter of the documents mentioned in subsection (3) of this section or breaks any state or federal law.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1998.