Local News

Yes Ma'am, Respect is A Law in Louisiana Schools

Posted August 22, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Do your children say "Yes Ma'am" or "No Sir" when they address you? Some students inLouisianaare now required by law to use those phrases at school, and the new rule has prompted debate in the Triangle area over teaching respect in schools.

Most teachers agree that showing respect in the classroom promotes discipline and learning, but what they do not agree upon is how to make it happen.

SomeNorth Carolinateachers say they do not need a law to get respect from students.

Students at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Raleigh know who the boss is in their classrooms.

"I guess you might say it's an unwritten law here at our school," said teacher Nancy Cooley.

Cooley, a fifth-grade math teacher, said her students address her respectfully.

"Instead of a 'yes,' I may hear a 'yeah,' and we usually correct them with 'yes.' I don't care so much about the 'ma'am,' but the 'yes' must be there," said Cooley.

Educators say respect is not just about using ma'am or sir. It is a philosophy of life which begins at home.

"My parents have taught me respect and how to respect my teachers and my parents and other people," said student Angela DeFilippo.

"The one thing we can do at the school is make sure we treat the students with respect. What they live, they'll do," said Principal Susan Goethals.

Since 1994,Wake Countyhas taught Character Education in public schools. Organizers say the program works better than any law could.

"What we're trying to do is reach the children's hearts, change their intrinsic motivation, and that will result in positive behavior and respect for teachers and in many other areas as well," said Anne Lee,Character Educationconsultant.

So far, no one in North Carolina has even suggested that the state follow Louisiana's lead.

Louisiana is the first state in the country to legislate courtesy in the public schools. There is no doubt that the rest of the country will be watching to see if it works.