Reuters, June 16, 1999

Respect Could Become Law in Louisiana for Children

BATON ROUGE, La., June 16 (Reuters) - Louisiana students will be required to address teachers and other school employees as "ma'am" or "sir" and to use Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss when calling them by name under a bill nearing passage in the state legislature.

State Sen. Don Cravins, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said on Wednesday it was an attempt to teach children civility and respect, two values that he believes are sorely lacking in today's young people and whose absence may be contributing to youthful violence.

"I expect that the respect children will have to show their teachers and principals will overflow, with them showing more respect to each other. If you show respect, you get respect," he told Reuters.

Many have blamed recent incidents of school violence, such as the shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on the failure to instill traditional values in children.

Cravins said the Colorado tragedy, in which 15 people died, contributed to widespread support for his bill, which is expected to gain final approval on Thursday in the Louisiana Senate.

He said some critics have said the state is trying to legislate good manners, but he asked them, "What harm can this do?"

"Will this make a difference? Hell, I don't know. But, we've got to try something," Cravins said.

Under the bill, students who did not show the proper respect would be subject to punishment that would be decided by their local school board. Expulsion or suspension from classes would not be allowed.

Cravins said he had seen similar rules work wonders with unruly inmates in Louisiana prisons.

"I've seen how polite and well-mannered the young inmates are, and if we can teach them that in prison, we can teach them in schools and maybe help keep them out of prisons," he said.

The new law would go into effect this autumn for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, then phase in higher grades one year at a time.

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