Every school system in North Carolina would have to provide instruction in responsibility and respect, under legislation touted by Senate Democrats on April 5.

The legislation, unveiled at a news conference at Broughton High School, would require a character education component be included at all schools. School systems also would have to adopt “a reasonable dress code.”

“This bill makes sure every school system has a character education program, but it empowers local folks to take the lead in designing programs that will work in their schools,” said Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, the bill’s primary sponsor. “They know the values that are important in their communities, and they can design programs that best reflect those values.”

The charter education program would include teaching about issues like good judgment, integrity, kindness, good citizenship, and self-discipline. The plan also calls on the state Board of Education to encourage tours of local government buildings and involvement in charitable community groups as part of its middle school civics curriculum.

Dalton said dress codes, already adopted by more than half the state’s school systems, would promote safety and discipline.

“Clearly, parents ought to teach values at home, but schools should do their part, too,” he said.

Gov. Mike Easley, who also attended the news conference, praised the proposal.

“We all like to believe that children are taught respect, responsibility, and character at home and in church, but the sad truth is some are not,” Easley said. “That is why we must take the initiative to educate our students’ hearts as well as their minds.”