Bart Simpson and South Park fans, take heed. The era of ultra-casual language may waning, at least in Louisiana. Elementary school students there will soon be required to address teachers and other school employees as "ma'am" and "sir," or use repectful titles such as Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss.
This bill outlining the new rules was approved in the Louisiana House last Thursday night, and passed the State Senate last month. The final draft of the bill should be on Governor Mike Foster's desk within days, and he's eager to sign it, especially since this piece of legislation was his idea.
CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen spoke with Governor Foster in Baton Rouge on Monday.
"I came from a 'Yes, sir, no ma'am' family myself," said the Republican governor. "This is just one little additional item to try to make a student employable and a more whole person when they get out of the public system."
The law goes into effect next year, beginning with students from kindergarten through 5th grade. The following year, 6th grade will be added. And another grade will be added every year, so that by 2006 the law will affect students through 12th grade.
The problem, according to the governor, is that few children are being taught respect at home. The rate of single-parent children in Louisiana public schools is at least 50 percent.
Mark Teal, who has taught Sulphur, La. children for 14 years, agrees that responsibility for children's attitudes lies with parents. "It's not anything they can legislate. They'd have to pass laws on the parents."
Still, many teachers and parents across the state are willing to give the new bill a chance.
To critics who say that respect shouldn't be legislated, the governor responds that respect can be taught.
"If you end up without a job, on the streets, you'll end up in prison, and they will teach it there, too," says Foster.
Although originally the bill called for suspension or expulsion of offenders, the punishment has been toned down. It will be up to the individual school, but it's likely to be on the level of an after-school detention.
The idea for the bill came while the governor and his staff were talking about why sometimes private schools work better than public schools. According to the governor, many private schools require respect in the classrooms.
"Some of our public schools have it, some don't," he said. "The ones that have it seem to work well."
The governor, who is wealthy, has refused his salary for the past two years. He has allocated a good portion of that money to an awards program to recognize teachers who have implemented innovative character programs and activities in their schools.
"The one that won it this year, they had a code for their students that the students developed themselves," Foster explained. "When they broke the code, it was very difficult for them to say they didn't knowhat it was."