RICHMOND — Kingston Elementary students were tackling some “heady” topics Wednesday during the school’s fourth-annual “We the People” event for fifth-grade students, said Glenn Manns, Kentucky state coordinator for the nationwide program.
“This exercise is not for the meek,” Manns said.
Kingston is the only school in Madison County and one of only a handful in the state to participate in the program, said fifth-grade social studies teacher Terena Moore.
Students, who have been studying constitutional democracy, were questioned by adult judges on historical and contemporary issues such as:
• Should prayer be permitted in public schools?
• When is it acceptable to limit religious beliefs?
• How does the U.S. Constitution protect freedom of expression?
• Do middle school dress codes violate freedom of expression?
Students also demonstrated their understanding of the basic purpose of government, gave examples of how democratic governments function and explained why framers of the U.S. Constitution thought it was important to share power and guard against tyranny.
All 110 fifth-graders, dressed in professional attire, rotated between five different sessions in four classrooms. Each presented a prepared speech, and judges had seven minutes to question the students. Students used their knowledge of the constitution to defend their rights in these simulated Congressional hearings.
Manns, who judges a lot of “We the People” programs, in middle and high schools as well, said the Kingston fifth-graders’ performance Wednesday was “an outstanding example of what kids are capable of.”
Clark-Moores Middle School history teacher Sharon Graves asked a panel of students, who will enter middle school next year, if the middle school dress code violates their freedom of expression.
Jayden Adams said it doesn’t because the policy protects the safety of others.
“If someone is allowed to wear baggy pants, it is easier to conceal a weapon,” he said.