DES MOINES — A bill introduced in the Iowa House would require that students and teachers in Iowa public schools stand at attention and sing the National Anthem daily.
Representative Sue Cahill, a Democrat from Marshalltown, is one of the legislators assigned to review the bill Wednesday and she asked everyone present to join her in singing the National Anthem.
There was applause and a few shouts of “play ball” when the anthem concluded. Cahill said the Iowa Capitol’s “a perfect place” to sing the song, but patriotism “comes from the heart” and shouldn’t be forced.
“Teachers have enough to do right now without adding another requirement to implement and then handle consequences if students don’t participate correctly,” Cahill said.
If the bill as written becomes law, teachers and students who object to singing the National Anthem would be required to stay silent and stand while others sing. The bill says students in every grade should be taught the words and history of the song and “how to love, honor and respect the anthem.” It also specifies at least one of the four verses of the song be sung every school day and on “patriotic occasions” the entire song would be sung. Republican Representative Henry Stone of Forest City said backing the bill is a “no brainer” for him.
“I support patriotism and anything we can do to advance that,” Stone said at the conclusion of the subcommittee hearing. “I look forward to moving this bill forward, having more conversations in committee and to see how that pans out.”
Stone retired after a 23 year career in the Air Force and is the third generation of his family to serve in the military. “I believe in this bill,” Stone told reporters. “I believe it’s something that we can put back in our schools that has added value.”
Republican Representative Phil Thompson of Boone, an Army veteran, also voted to send the bill to the House Education Committee. “Happy to advance any conversation promoting patriotism and civics in our schools,” Thompson said.
Dave Daughton, a lobbyist for the School Administrators of Iowa and Rural School Advocates of Iowa, told lawmakers the groups aren’t opposed to patriotism. “We think a lot of this is being taught in classrooms already,” Daughton said. “…We just don’t want to be mandated that all districts have to do it and do it in the same way.”
Damian Thompson, a lobbyist for Iowa Safe Schools said he’s “not crazy” about having people “kneel or sit” for the National Anthem. “I 100% respect their constitutional right to do so,” he said, “and by mandating that they stand, students’ First Amendment rights would be violated.”
The bill only applies to public schools in Iowa. Private schools would be exempt from required classroom instruction on the National Anthem and to have students and staff sing the song daily.