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La. School Respect Bill Now a Law

July 7, 1999

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Manners are going back to school next term.

Gov. Mike Foster signed a bill Tuesday that requires Louisiana public students to address their teachers and other school employees with courtesy titles.

``The lack of respect in and out of school is a national problem and no one has an answer,″ said Sen. Don Cravens, a Lafayette Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation.

When classes begin this fall, Louisiana students must refer to teachers and administrators as ``ma’am″ or ``sir″ or use the appropriate title of Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs.

The law, which was passed earlier this year by the state Legislature, is believed to be the first in the nation requiring respectful conversation.

``This is certainly not a cure-all for all the ills of our society, of one parent homes where there may not be enough guidance or in homes were there is none,″ Cravens said during legislative debate.

The law will first apply to those in kindergarten through fifth grade. Higher grades will be phased in over the next few years, one grade per year. All grades will be included by the 2006-2007 school year.

No punishment is included in the current law. Each of the state’s 66 public school systems will decide how to discipline students refusing to respond politely. However, no student can be expelled or suspended.

``Nothing we’ve done in four years of this administration has caused so much stir,″ said Foster, who had to seek out sponsors for the legislation. ``I don’t know what that says about the state.″

Around the country, some school systems require parents or students to sign codes of discipline. Some states, notably Arkansas and Georgia, require ``character education,″ teaching honesty, fairness and respect for others.

But Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform in Washington, said she knows of no other such attempt to require respectful conversation through state law.

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