Education

‘In God We Trust’ mandated at schools. Manatee school board just updated its policy

A law requiring Florida schools to display “In God We Trust” on their campuses, approved by former Gov. Rick Scott last year, was rolled out with minimal controversy and cost to Florida school districts.

The School Board of Manatee County updated a list of two dozen policies at Tuesday’s meeting, adding a section that aligns with Florida Statute 1003.44: “Patriotic Programs.”

“The official motto of the State of Florida, ‘In God We Trust,’ shall be displayed in a conspicuous place in all schools in the district and in each building used by the school board,” the policy states.

Much like other school districts, Manatee opted to place the state seal in the front lobby of administrative buildings, and “in or near” the main office at each school, according to district spokesman Mike Barber.

The seal includes Florida’s motto, “In God We Trust,” along with imagery of a Seminole woman spreading flowers on a shoreline, near a sabal palm and a traveling steamboat.

Manatee spent approximately $300 — about $5 per seal — to print the images in-house and then distribute them to area schools in August 2018, Barber said. While the roll-out was completed last year, the school board officially updated its policies on Tuesday evening.

The Bradenton Herald verified that Seminole, Lake, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Orange counties also used the state seal to comply with Florida’s new requirement. It was an affordable and perhaps mundane option, allowing districts to quickly follow statute and avoid controversy.

The School District of Palm Beach County originally used a white sign with the motto printed in bold letters. Some teachers felt the change violated church-state separation, prompting the county school board to approve the use of Florida’s seal, the Sun Sentinel reported.

A community partner paid for the printing and framing of each seal in Lake County, and Seminole County schools spent a total of $80 — $77 for frames and $3 for paper — to outfit dozens of schools with the seal last year, spokespeople said.

Seminole state seal provided
The Great Seal of the State of Florida, framed in acrylic and displayed in a Seminole County Public Schools building. Florida school districts used the seal to meet a 2018 law requiring the state motto, “In God We Trust,” to appear in public campuses. Provided photo

“It’s a design that is state-approved and widely used,” said Sherri Owens, a spokeswoman for Lake County schools.

The law was first proposed by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, in House Bill 839. She addressed the House in February 2018, one week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland .

“It is not a secret that we have some gun issues that need to be addressed,” Daniels said at the time. “But the real thing that needs to be addressed are issues of the heart.”

Her one-page bill passed in the House with a 97-10 vote, but it later stalled in the Senate. The proposal was then merged with House Bill 7055, a 207-page education bill that included a host of other measures.

The sweeping bill passed both chambers in March 2018, and Scott signed it into law a week later.

“What would happen if we removed God from our public forums and from things we do every day?” Daniels previously said. “In reality, we never really can remove God — we can only try. But when we remove God, we remove hope.”

“He’s not a Republican and he’s not a Democrat,” she continued. “He’s not black and he’s not white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”

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