An unconventional constitution

A constitution is posted inside and outside Linda Cleverley's fourth-grade classroom at Keppel Elementary School, but this 2010 version one-ups Thomas Jefferson, students said.

As a class, students wrote a declaration of their own for their domain — Room 1305.

"We the students of Mrs. Cleverley's class, in order to form a more perfect classroom, establish friendship, ensure respect, promote fairness, promote equity and secure a good education for ourselves, do ordain and establish this constitution for the class of 1305."

It became fitting then that the same students read from the U.S. Constitution during the Constitution Day assembly Friday.

"I was nervous, but it was fun when I did it," said 9-year-old Chayne Andrews.

Her classmate, Madeleine Ackley, said the assembly was about celebrating freedom.

"It's saying what you think and telling what you believe even if someone doesn't agree," she said.

But the Constitution also protects freedom, which is a critical part of America, the fourth-graders said.

"It technically means you can do whatever you want," Madeleine said.

Classmate Dawson Johnson cut her off, pointing out limitations.

"You can't break the law or hurt people," he said. "So bungee jumping, parachuting, zip lining is all OK."

Constitution Day doubled as election day for these students. They returned from physical education to elect a class governor and secretary of state.

"Right now it's election season," Cleverley said. "It won't be a four-year term, it will be for the semester."

The elected officials ought to be responsible, friendly and respectful — the values enshrined in the class' constitution, Cleverley said.

"You're not going to nominate someone because you're friends," she said.

Jamie Calica was elected governor and Alfred Gonzales secretary of state.

"It's cool," Alfred said after the vote. "I'll tell my parents."

It's his first year in Glendale schools, having moved from Sylmar, but Alfred, 9, is a responsibility expert, his teacher and classmates said.

And his work proves it. Along with the classroom constitution outside Room 1305 are about 10 cartoons depicting responsibility and respect in action.

With Chayne as his partner, the students drew various actions, including children playing or working, and noted that they were following ethical and lawful behavior.

"It's for your rights," Chayne said. "It's your responsibility to be careful."

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