Respect required for sir and ma'am;International

30th July 1999 at 01:00

It's the law: beginning this autumn in the southern American state of Louisiana, students must address their teachers as "sir" or "ma'am," or face punishment by local school authorities.

The measure is among a number of initiatives across the country to return respect to the classroom. These include a federal Bill passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted in schools, despite the traditional separation of church and state.

The legislation follows a series of shooting incidents over the past two years, which have left dozens of students and teachers dead.

"The lesson of Columbine high school is that we have created a culture that raises children that kill children," said Texas Republican Representative Tom DeLay, who argued in favor of the Ten Commandments Bill in Congress.

In addition to expected legal problems, such laws also have been met with scorn by critics who say respect should be taught in the home, not the classroom, and from teachers, who complain respect begins with higher pay for their profession.

Debra Cranford, a Louisiana teacher, said: "I do not need the legislature or governor to pass bills requiring respect from my students for me. What the teachers of Louisiana need is for the legislature to realise that we need their respect."

Florida, Arkansas and Georgia have ordered that children attend "character" classes, offering lessons on fair play, honesty and respect for others. Other states are considering tightening up on their dress codes.

"Little things really do matter," said Marsanne Golsby, spokesman for Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, who supported the Bill. However, one teenager said: "Kids don't respect their parents at home. What makes them think they're going to go to school and respect their teachers?"

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