An Iowa bill would make students sing the national anthem every day. It was sung by a lawmaker


When it came time to deliver her closing comments at an Iowa House subcommittee meeting on Wednesday, Rep. Sue Cahill stood up and began singing the national anthem.

“Say you see, as the dawn breaks,” she began singing as her classmates stood and sang along with her.

Cahill and her colleagues were chatting House Study Bill 587, which would require all teachers and students in Iowa schools to sing at least one verse of the national anthem each day. The two Republicans on the subcommittee voted in favor of the bill.

Neither did Cahill, a Democrat.

When she finished leading the group in the first verse of the anthem, Marshalltown’s Cahill took her seat again.

“I appreciate you singing with me,” she said, before describing her concerns about the bill.

“A school classroom is not the place to sing the national anthem and thus impose patriotism on students,” Cahill said. “I think this is something students choose and it’s something they learn and will learn in other ways.”

Rep. Sue Cahill, D-Marshalltown, speaks during debate in the Iowa House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.

Rep. Sue Cahill, D-Marshalltown, speaks during debate in the Iowa House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.

Rep. Henry Stone, R-Forest City, who chaired the subcommittee, said he supported the bill “100 percent.”

“I think our kids should be exposed more to things like our national anthem, those who supported our country, and our soldiers — and I am one of them,” Stone said. “I grew up in a family that values ​​patriotism, promotes patriotism. That’s why I joined as a third-generation military man, who served our country for 22 years. So I believe in this bill. I believe it’s something we can put back into our schools that has added value.”

The bill would require students to sing the national anthem every day. What will you do?

The seven-page bill contains requirements for the national anthem to be sung daily, as well as for students to be taught the history of the anthem in social studies classes.

“The governing board of each public school shall require all teachers who provide classroom instruction and all students in attendance to sing at least one verse of the national anthem each school day,” the bill states.

The bill goes on to say that “when the national anthem is sung in accordance with this subsection, all able-bodied teachers and students shall stand at attention and remove any head covering that is not being worn for religious purposes.”

The bill also stipulates that all students and teachers must sing the entire national anthem on “national occasions.”

School boards can also decide whether to require the entire national anthem to be sung before all school-sponsored events.

Will Iowa State students have to sing the national anthem?

Any student or teacher who chooses not to sing the anthem will be asked to stand at attention and maintain “respectful silence.”

If a teacher chooses not to lead the class in singing the national anthem, the principal will be asked to find another teacher to lead the singing.

The bill states that school boards would not consider whether or not a student or teacher participated in singing the national anthem when evaluating that teacher or student.

Will private schools be required to sing the national anthem?

The bill requires that social studies curricula in schools include instruction regarding “the words and music of the national anthem,” as well as the meaning of the anthem, its history, and the principles of American government.

The bill also requires social studies classes to teach “the sacrifices made by the founders of the United States, the important contributions made by all who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States since the founding, and how to love, honor, and respect.” National anthem.”

The bill would only apply to public schools. Private schools will be exempt from this requirement.

What are the concerns about asking students to sing the national anthem?

Several people at Wednesday’s subcommittee meeting raised concerns that requiring students and staff to stand for the national anthem could violate the First Amendment.

“Students and teachers alike do not give up their First Amendment rights at the school door,” Damian Thompson, a lobbyist for Iowa Safe Schools, told lawmakers.

“While I — and I’m putting my personal hat on — I’m not crazy when people decide to kneel or sit for the national anthem, I respect their constitutional right to do so 100 percent,” Thompson said. “By requiring them to stand, our students’ First Amendment rights would be violated.”

Dave Dutton, a lobbyist for Iowa School Superintendents and Iowa Rural School Advocates, said his clients oppose the bill because it mandates the teaching of certain curricula.

“We’re not opposed to patriotism and all the things in this bill. We think a lot of this is being taught in classrooms already,” he said. “We oppose being empowered to do some of the things in the bill.”

Cahill, a retired teacher, said she is concerned that requiring teachers to take time out of their classrooms to play the national anthem every day will mean less time for their students to learn the required curriculum.

“Elementary social studies classes often take 20 to 30 minutes,” she said. “The amount of time it would take to not only sing, but teach singing takes up some valuable teacher time, and student learning time.”

Stone said he is open to making changes to the bill moving forward to incorporate the feedback he got Wednesday. But he said he supports adding the bill to Iowa’s social studies classrooms.

“For teachers to have the ability to incorporate this into their social studies program is a no-brainer for me,” he said.

Steven Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa House and politics for The Record. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: An Iowa bill would require students to sing the national anthem every day

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