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Moment of silence makes quiet return

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

STREAMWOOD — Those 15 seconds before the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday’s morning announcements at Heritage Elementary School weren’t terribly controversial.

In fact, they were silent, according to Principal Jennifer Bond-Stoever.

That moment of silence was held Tuesday at schools in Elgin District U46 and elsewhere as an Illinois law requiring a daily moment of silence in public schools was reinstated throughout the state after a two-year hiatus.

“I think any time you give students time to reflect, they benefit from that,” Bond-Stoever said. “It’s a nice way to start the day. We have announcements. We have the moment of silence. It helps everybody find that nice calm, and then we start our day.”

Federal Judge Robert Gettleman lifted an injunction on the law’s enforcement last week, and the Illinois State Board of Education notified school districts Friday, a day later.

U46 Chief Legal Officer Pat Broncato immediately e-mailed all the district’s principals, according to district spokesman Tony Sanders.

That e-mail suggested the moments before or after the Pledge of Allegiance as “a natural segue” for quiet reflection. The district didn’t provide a “script,” Sanders added.

But that moment of silence isn’t all that unusual to the Elgin school district. In fact, many schools, including Heritage, held a moment of silence last week to remember the victims of the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., as President Barack Obama had urged all public schools, Sanders said.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in October that the law, approved in 2007, is constitutional because it doesn’t specify prayer. The decision reversed a 2009 ruling by Gettleman calling the law unconstitutional.

The court said legislators stressed the moment of silence’s secular and practical purpose in settling students down at the start of the school day, which the Heritage principal echoed.

And while parent Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove, an atheist who filed a challenge to the law, said he plans to fight it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bond-Stoever said the reaction to the law from students and parents at the Streamwood school was “very low-key.”

“I haven’t heard anything,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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