COLUMBIA, S.C. -- At Meadowfield Elementary School, silence isn't only golden, it's the rule.
A committee of teachers and parents came up with guideline for silent hallways and lunchrooms, they say, to stem bad behavior and curb inappropriate conversations by students. The rule began when students returned from winter break last week.
The school's 600-or-so students who used to gab with friends now read books while waiting for classes to start and listen to classical music in hallways and the cafeteria.
Lisa Curtis, the Meadowfield teacher who chaired the committee, said students have shown less control of themselves the last few years.
"Even parents were saying that it seems a little more chaotic in the halls. You could tell the climate was changing and we needed to change with it," she said.
Some parents, though, say the zip-the-lips policy goes too far. There's a meeting to discuss the policy Monday.
"This is going overboard," said Billy Smith, a father of two Meadowfield students. "I grew up talking to my friends during lunch and using those socialization skills. Kids need that."
"What about the ones that do their work and behave appropriately in school?" asked Lee Crabtree, mother of a Meadowfield fourth-grader. "They're being punished, too."
Officials say that if students do a good job keeping quiet, they'll be allowed to whisper. And students will be taught what are appropriate conversations for school.
"Not everyone knows what it means to whisper," said Paula Stephens, the school's principal. "But everyone knows what silence is. We're starting with that as our baseline."
Stephens says Meadowfield's lunch is only 20 minutes. She says most schools don't allow talking in hallways.
Plans call for the Meadowfield to put up a traffic light in the cafeteria. Green means students can talk. Yellow means things are getting too loud. Red means silence.
Curtis said many teachers are happy with the change.
"It's amazing how well it's working," she said. "The learning environment is better. The students are being more polite. There's no bickering. I'm so proud of them."