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The day rivals the significance of July 4 in our nation’s history, but you may not have heard of it.

What’s so special about Sept. 17?

If you’re stumped, ask any student in Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific or Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools-Guam this week or next, and he or she should answer “Constitution Day.”

This year, for the first time, schools that receive federal money — including DODDS-Pacific and DDESS-Guam — are required to offer an educational program about the U.S. Constitution on or around Sept. 17, said Karen Luckenbaugh, DODDS-Pacific/DDESS-Guam social studies coordinator.

Constitution Day was founded nine years ago to mark the day in 1787 that the framework of the American government, the U.S. Constitution, was signed. In December, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd — a history buff who reportedly carries a pocket-size copy of the Constitution with him at all times — sought to ensure that schools would celebrate the day by including in the final 2005 federal spending bill a requirement that all federally funded schools — from kindergarten to college — mark the occasion.

The law also requires federal agencies to provide materials about the Constitution on Sept. 17, or the Friday before or Monday after if the day falls on a weekend. It falls on a Saturday this year.

A recent Los Angeles Times story notes that the legislation did not give the Department of Education any enforcement power. School officials say the law rests more on the honor code.

Luckenbaugh said Department of Defense Education Activity schools are requested to use either the week before or the week after Constitution Day to implement programs highlighting the Constitution.

She said schools are free to conduct any type of age-appropriate educational activity, ranging from schoolwide assemblies to special classroom projects.

“We’re looking forward to students learning more about this living document that serves as a blueprint for our government,” she said.

Some classes within DODDS-Pacific schools already cover the Constitution in September. At Misawa Air Base in Japan, Sollars Elementary School teacher Patricia Rzeznik always hands out informational papers on the document this time of year to her third-graders to link with learning about rules in the classroom and school, she said.

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