Last week, one local American history teacher’s classes learned about the bill of rights in an especially unique way: by holding a convention and creating their very own student bill of rights.
Jim Guy, who teaches ninth grade American history at Dawson County Junior High School, said that he’s been conducting the student bill of rights project with groups of students for 18 years, six of which have been in Dawson County.
During the project, his three American government classes spent their respective class periods holding a convention, modeled after the U.S. Constitutional Convention that took place in Philadelphia in 1787. Each class spent their time proposing and voting on items to add to their own “student bill of rights”, or SBOR.
“I let them have their very own convention and attempt to create a SBOR that will enhance their own classroom,” Guy said. “They can lobby for privileges and rights they want if they’re willing to fight for them and justify why they need them to excel in my class.”
On Monday Feb. 27, each of Guy’s three classes began their conventions in the junior high school’s auditorium. After a week of work on the project, they then held signing ceremonies to sign off on their completed SBOR documents on Friday March 3. Each SBOR will go into effect in the class that created it, and the rights that the students approved will be valid for the remainder of the semester.
During the conventions, students made cases for different rights to add to their SBOR documents. They pitched a wide range of ideas, including the right to spend the first 10 minutes of class each Friday writing a letter of appreciation to a teacher, the right to sit in whichever seat they want to in the classroom and the right to ask their teacher to dress up in a historical costume once a month.
Students were asked to vote on the proposed rights, and a majority vote of two-thirds of the students in favor of an item was needed in order to decide a list of at least 10 items to go into their SBOR. Each class then wrote a preamble for its SBOR before transferring the whole thing onto a poster board to sign and hang in the classroom.
“It’s very enlightening to watch this transpire not knowing what they’ll come up with since each student cares about different things,” Guy said.