Constitution requirement lax

Christina M. Currie

The requirement was tucked into a supplemental spending bill Congress passed in 2004. There were six versions of the bill and the requirement is one of more than 200 sections.

Those may be the reasons many school officials say they didn’t know they were required to dedicate time on or near Sept. 17 teaching about the United States Constitution.

“Many institutions across the country appear to be unaware of this new requirement,” said Rick O’Donnell with the Colorado Department of Education.

The DOE has released guidelines for complying with the law, but those guidelines haven’t quite made it into Moffat County classrooms.

It was business as usual on Friday, and Monday will be the same. No school reports making room in an already crowded curriculum for a special lesson.

Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said lessons on the U.S. Constitution are included the U.S. history and government classes required for fifth-, eighth-, and 11th-grade students.

“We already integrate the Constitution into our curriculum, so to do so on a specific day is hard,” Sheridan said.

Only Moffat County High School government teachers are complying with the law, albeit on accident.

Liane Davis-Kling said her government students study the Constitution all semester. Stu–dents study the history of the Con–sitution and the process for changing it, and then they study specific provisions as they apply to current events and legal decisions. For example, Hurricane Katrina sparked a discussion on the powers given to the president by the Constitution.

“It’s an ongoing discussion,” Davis-Kling said. “We use it all the time.”

Each student has a copy of the Constitution, she said.

High school government class teacher Joy Tegetman said her students are just beginning their study of the Constitution.

“I haven’t really done anything other than what we’re already doing,” she said.

At Craig Middle School, patriotic study is currently focused on the flag. Each day, different students are selected to raise or lower the flag, and they’re learning how to fold it properly.

“They’re learning about the flag and what it stands for,” Principal Don Davidson said.

The law applies to any school that receives federal funding — and that includes elementary schools.

Groups working to get Con–stitution-based lessons taught on Constitution Day recommend that kindergarteners are introduced to the term “authority” and that by first and second grade, students understand the concepts of “limited government” and “law.”

At those grade levels, Moffat County students are learning the “Pledge of Allegiance” and understanding the meaning behind its words.

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