Mandating Character Education Through Legislation

State Character Education Activity

Mandating character education through legislation: 14 States

Alabama: A minimum of ten minutes per day of character education is required for all K-12 students, as mandated in Section 16-6B-2(h), Code of Alabama 1975. 1995 legislation requires character education. Gov. Don Siegelman has proposed legislation patterned after the Louisiana courtesy legislation that requires students to address teachers by titles and has introduced a “Governor’s Respect for Teachers Award.” On April 20, 2001 Executive Order No. 50 was passed, establishing the Alabama Advisory Council for Safe Schools.

Arkansas: Legislation requires character education (Act 631 of 1997).

California: State’s education code requires teaching of character development traits and was recently redrafted to increase emphasis on character development. Additionally, legislation (AB2028) was passed on May 30, 2000 that would create a list of model character education programs for schools.

Florida: 1999 legislation (A+ Plan for Education) requires character education similar to that set forth in Character Counts! 2000: Gov. Jeb Bush promoted the “Not in My School” program, scheduled to begin during the 2000-2001 school year. The program encourages high school principals to work with students on monitoring their schools for crime, to hold conflict resolution sessions, and to have students talk with their parents about school-related issues.

Georgia: 1997 legislation requires character education based on 27 traits. Follow-up legislation passed the same year mandates that the state develop resources for character education based on 27 traits. Legislation patterned after the Louisiana courtesy legislation is currently being considered. Section 20-2-145 of the Georgia State Code, amended in 1999, declares that by the start of the 1999-2000 school year, 29 traits will be taught.

Indiana: 1937 legislation requires character education, referring to it as “good citizenship.” The legislation was updated in 1995. Legislation patterned after the Louisiana courtesy legislation is currently being considered. 2000: Gov. Frank O’Bannon announced that he wants Indiana to be “a national leader in making character count” and that the state would be joining with Anderson University to establish the Center for Character Development to promote character education in Indiana’s schools and communities. In October 2000, the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning became their honorary spokesperson.

Nebraska: 1997 education bill supports character education-like skills and 1996 legislation mandates character education. Teachers in violation of the legislation are subject to a misdemeanor.

New York: (2000 SAVE Act) Mandates that K-12 teaching include a component on civility, citizenship and character education instructing students on the principles of honesty, tolerance, personal responsibility, respect for others, observance of laws and rules, dignity and other traits. These are to be incorporated in existing curriculum. Education Law A4816, referred to the Committee on Education in February 2001, requires development of curriculum in character education.

North Carolina: In August 2001, Governor Mike Easley signed H.B. 195, “The Student Citizen Act of 2001,” which requires schools to implement character education programs and to establish dress codes for their students. The proposed budget under consideration by the General Assembly allocates $200,000 for the implementation of character education programs.

South Carolina: Section 59-17-135 of the 1976 Code was amended in November 2000 South Carolina Family Respect Act to reflect that “schools must be encouraged to instill the highest character and academic excellence in each student, in close cooperation with the student’s parents” and that “each local school board of trustees of the State must develop a policy addressing character education. Any character education program implemented by a district as a result of an adopted policy must, to the extent possible, incorporate character traits including, but not limited to, the following: respect for others, honesty, selfcontrol, cleanliness, courtesy, good manners, cooperation, citizenship, patriotism, courage, fairness, kindness, selfrespect, compassion, diligence, generosity, punctuality, cheerfulness, patience, sportsmanship, loyalty, and virtue. Local school boards must include all sectors of the community… in the development of a policy and in the development of any program implemented as a result of the policy.”

South Dakota: Legislative Statute 13-33-6.1: Character development instruction. Unless the governing body elects by resolution, effective for not less than one or more than four school terms, to do otherwise, character development instruction shall be given in all public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools in the state to impress upon the minds of
the students the importance of citizenship, patriotism, honesty, self discipline, self-respect, sexual abstinence, respect for the contributions of minority and ethnic groups to the heritage of South Dakota, regard for the elderly and respect for authority.

Tennessee: 1998 legislation requires that all schools implement character education. Public School Law #369 requires character education in grades K-12 (July 1999).

Utah: 1953 legislation mandates that character education must be integrated into the state education framework.

Virginia: 1999 legislation in the Code of Virginia mandates that schools teach character education, and that each school board shall establish, within its existing programs, a character education program in its schools. “The purpose of the character education program shall be to instill in students civic virtues and personal character traits so as to improve the learning environment, promote student achievement, reduce disciplinary problems, and develop civic-minded students of high character. The components of each program shall be developed in cooperation with the students, their parents and the community at large.”

Encouraging character education through legislation: 14

Arizona: The Arizona legislature passed a bill (SB 1369) giving K-12 schools authority to include character education instruction and expands the use of public school fees to fund character education. The legislation also provides guidelines for adopting character traits and for activities to reinforce their application. The measure was introduced by Sen. David Petersen. The year before, in 1999, a bill to encourage character education based on models such as Character First and Character Counts! was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by the governor. The Governor recently appointed a character education commission, a task force of business leaders and educators to identify ways to fund character education and integrate character education into the curriculum.

Colorado: In June, Governor Bill Owens signed into law HB 01-1292, which “encourages school districts to develop and strengthen character education in Colorado’s schools by providing instruction to students on developmental tools and core character qualities that transcend cultural, religious and socioeconomic differences.” The bill also states that “while parents are the primary and most important moral educators of their children, such efforts should be reinforced in the school and community environments… research indicating that core character qualities such as family support, community involvement, positive peer influence, motivation to achieve, respect for person and property, common courtesy, conflict resolution, integrity, honesty, fairness, a sense of civil and personal responsibility, purpose and self-respect help give youth the basic interpersonal skills and attributes that are critical building blocks for successful relationships.”

Iowa: Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has signed legislation (HB 2454) encouraging school districts to establish character education programs. The new law directs the state department
of education to partner with schools, nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education to design and implement character education programs that may be integrated into classroom instruction. “Each school is encouraged to instill the highest character and academic excellence in each student, in close cooperation with the student’s parents, and with input from the community and educators…. Whenever possible, the department shall develop partnerships… to design and implement character education programs that may be integrated into classroom instruction and may be carried out with other educational reforms.”

Kentucky: House Bill 157, which would make character education a part of the state’s model school curriculum, was passed on March 28, 2000. A state-mandated “Learning Goals and Academic Expectations” for students addresses character education-like objectives. Legislation patterned after the Louisiana courtesy legislation is currently being considered. The state has a Character Education Project designed to foster the development of character traits in Kentucky’s children. It is closely allied with the Kentucky Safe School Act (House Bill 330), and the Title IV, Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Program. Kentucky has adopted 10 character traits.

Louisiana: H.B. 102 passed in 1998 and requires the Department of Education to establish a character education clearinghouse and to distribute information to all districts on various character education nonsectarian practices, models and potential funding sources. The law specifically states that any city or parish school system may offer a character education curriculum, but does not require them to do so. (It “permits” city and parish school boards to offer character education curriculum.) Gov. Mike Foster does not support the use of any single program or set of character traits. The state’s role as an information disseminator is clearly defined. Additionally, a 1999 bill requires that students address all school employees as “ma’am” or “sir.” This first “school manners” law passed in the country has led to other states to look toward similar legislation. Gov. Foster has also established the “Outstanding Character Education Awards” program, which he has funded privately for the past two years.

Maine: Enacted Public Law, 1999, Chapter 351 of the Maine Statutes (as amended from Maine Law, 1821) established Statewide Standards for Behavior that state, “In consultation with organizations representing school boards, school administrators, teachers, parents and other interested local officials and community members, the commissioner shall develop statewide standards for responsible and ethical student behavior.” The law sets specific standards based upon the February 2001 report of the Commission for Ethical and Responsible Student Behavior, Taking Responsibility. The report helps communities develop standards by suggesting processes and programs for long-term changes in attitudes, structures and climate in schools. All Maine schools are required to develop codes of conduct based upon this report. These standards call for the teaching and modeling of values that will result in educating academically successful students of good character. The importance of character is implied throughout the language of the Maine’s Common Core as well as in the academic standards of Learning Results formally adopted by the Maine Legislature in 1996.

Maryland: While state legislation currently encourages character education, Sen. Larry E. Haines (R-Carroll), introduced legislation (SB 737) in March 2000 to mandate that all Maryland public schools develop curricula to teach basic moral values. 1978 legislation adopted a resolution establishing Maryland’s Values Education Commission. In 1983, the Commission defined 10 character and eight citizenship goals. The Maryland Partnership in Character Education is working to integrate character education into the state’s 24 school systems. Maryland was the first state to appoint a statewide character education coordinator.

Mississippi: Senate Bill 2121 passed by the 1999 Legislature encourages but does not require public schools to teach character traits. Legislation patterned after the Louisiana courtesy legislation that requires students to address teachers by titles is currently being considered.

Ohio: (2000) Ohio House Bill 282 earmarks $1million for character education.

Oklahoma: 1999 legislation, HB 1765, authorizes district school boards of education to develop and make available character education programs. The local school boards of the school districts of this state may develop and implement a comprehensive program for character education in grades K-6. This program shall focus on students’ development of character traits, the kind and manner found in available curriculum. “It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect.”

Oregon: House Bill 2670, enacted during the 1999 Legislative Session, reinforced the importance of character development in Oregon’s system of education. The bill directed the Department of Education to apply for federal Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project grants.

Texas: H.B. 946, signed by Governor Rick Perry on June 11, 2001 and effective immediately, encourages character education and that a school district may provide a character education program emphasizing positive character traits; use integrated teaching strategies; and be age appropriate. “In developing or selecting a character education program… a school district shall consult with a committee selected by the district that consists of: parents of district students; educators; and other members of the community, including community leaders.” The measure also “does not require or authorize proselytizing or indoctrinating concerning any specific religious or political belief.”

Washington: 1993 legislation considers character education as an integral part of public education, but leaves the responsibility for implementation and assessment of character education at the local level. A 2000 legislative initiative, House Bill 2409, is pending. The bill would strengthen the existing language and create a character education partnership program and provide grants for character education. No district would be forced to engage in character education under the measure. The Bill was vetoed in the 2000 Senate.

West Virginia: 1995 State School Act required the State Department of Education to develop a preventative discipline program of which one part is a weekly character education discussion. In May 2001, the West Virginia House and Senate passed a bill (SB 125; HB 2208) signed by the governor supporting a “comprehensive approach to integrate character education into all aspects of school culture, school functions and existing curriculum.”

Support Character Education, but no current legislation: 10

Connecticut: The Connecticut State Department of Education received a $250,000 Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project grant in 1996 from the U.S. Department of Education to establish character education programs. There is currently no legislation proposed for character education, however the State Department of Education does encourage districts to address character education in their curriculum.

Hawaii: Currently, the Board of Education has adopted character education as a policy.
2001 Legislation, H.B. NO. 437 is waiting for approval. This bill would require schools to teach character education. (Bill has been carried over to the 2002 session).

Illinois: Illinois State Board of Education is in partnership with five school districts to develop, implement, test, and replicate effective character education models throughout the state.

Kansas: After receiving a Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project grant from
the U.S. Department of Education, Kansas sponsored 24 districts in designing and implementing character education programs that incorporate six elements of character: caring, civic virtue, justice and fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness.

Michigan: Adopted character education resolution on October 24, 1996 to empower and encourage public schools to provide character education in a safe setting conducive to learning, based on the principles of our governing documents, including the principles of the First Amendment, and maintaining separation of church and state.

Minnesota: Does not require character education in state code or policy. Character education decisions are made at the local level. Local decisions are supported by the Comprehensive Goals identified in Minnesota statute 120B.02.

Montana: Senate Bill #418 introduced in the 2001 State Legislature calls for directive character education that promotes honesty, temperance, morality, courtesy, respect for self, parents and others, and obedience to law.

New Jersey: The New Jersey legislature has, for a second year, approved an appropriation of $4.75 million for the New Jersey Character Education Partnership Initiative, which provides state-aid funds on a formula basis to all public school districts, charter schools, special education services districts, educational services commissions and State-Operated Education Facilities. The Bureau of Policy Analysis and Program Development Office of Educational Support Services at the NJ Department of Education (contact: Philip Brown) is responsible for approving applications to use the funds appropriately and for providing guidance and support services. Assembly, No. 1548 encourages the development of character education programs.

North Dakota: ND Century Code, article 15-38-10 states: “Each teacher in the public school must provide moral instruction [about] the importance of truthfulness, temperance, purity, etc…” Article VIII, Section 149 of the Constitution of ND states: “In all schools instruction shall be given…to impress upon the mind the vital importance of truthfulness, etc,…”

Rhode Island: Funded by a U.S. Department of Education Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project grant and the Rhode Island Department of Education, the program Healthy Schools! Healthy Kids! Is partnering with state school districts to pilot a character development program.

Other: 11

Alaska: The 1998 Character Education Project in Alaska incorporated plans for school reform in character education for citizenship, and healthy life skills.

Delaware: Legislation enacted during the 1994-95 school year and generous resources support school-based intervention programs that positively effect school climate, discipline and safety. While schools are using resources to implement character education, legislators intentionally avoided using the specific term “character education” due to past objections to the term “values education.” In May, 2001, Delaware hosted it’s first Character Rally, a two-day event founded by Junior Achievement of Delaware to provide a fundamental understanding of ethics and the importance of building character in the lives of youth. More than 5,000 eighth graders attended.

Idaho: In 2000, the Idaho State Department of Education was awarded a $1 million, four-year Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project grant from the U.S. Department of Education. One component of the grant is to provide professional development, guidance and resources for Idaho teachers, schools and their communities in embedding character traits and life skills into their existing curriculum and instruction. Idaho’s project establishes Character Traits/Life Skills Institutes as the way schools and their community teams access appropriate assistance in developing character education/life skills action plans. The federal funds supplement efforts already underway in Idaho that utilize local school funds, state innovative project monies, non-profit foundations and other funding sources.

Massachusetts: In 1999 Gov. Paul Cellucci announced his support for Summer Institutes About Character Education. In 2001 Fund Code 750 was introduced to support planning for the integration of character education into Massachusetts’ public school curriculum.

Missouri: CHARACTERplus was established in 1988 by parents, educators and business leaders. It is now the nation’s largest community-wide response to the challenges of character education.

New Hampshire: 1995 received a state Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Grant to address the occurrence of violent incidences on school grounds.

New Mexico: 1998 legislation supporting the state’s Character Counts! Network was tabled and may reappear. New Mexico Standards of Excellence identify personal qualities of individuals that New Mexico schools and communities recognize and promote character education as a means to achieve student success.

Pennsylvania: HB 456, effective 7/1/99 authorizes schools to fund programs that address school violence, conflict resolution, codes of conduct etc. PACE (Pennsylvania Alliance for Character Education) is a public/private partnership committed to providing character education opportunities for Pennsylvania schoolchildren.

Vermont: State education standards include personal responsibility and social development.

Wisconsin: In a statewide poll of Wisconsin adults conducted by WEAC in July 1996, 91percent thought that schools should emphasize character education.

Wyoming: Under the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, the Department of Education distributes funds to support local prevention activities in the area of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and violence. Wyoming has a variety of programs that local school boards have adopted to deal with safe schools and violence in schools. Those programs include: Bully Proofing Your School, Boys’ Town, Conflict Resolution Skill Development, Character Counts, and Anger Management Training.

Unknown – 2
District of Columbia
Partnerships in Character Education Pilot Project Grants
(authorized under Title X, Part A, Section 10103 of the
Improving America’s School Act [P.L. 203-382])

Grant Recipients – (45 states, plus the District of Columbia)

2001: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, South 
Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia
2000: District of Columbia, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Nebraska, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia
1999: Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Mexico,
North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania
1998: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin
1997: Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey and South Carolina
1996: Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina and Washington
1995: California, Iowa, New Mexico and Utah

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