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September 1, 2010

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION OFFERS COMPREHENSIVE WEBSITE TO HELP TEACHERS, PARENTS & OTHERS OBSERVE 'CONSTITUTION AND CITIZENSHIP DAY'

A Broad Range of Educational Programs and Classroom Resources Provides Important Civic Lessons for Students in Grades K-12

Pick up a newspaper anywhere in the country and the headlines will confirm that the United States Constitution is still centrally important to the everyday lives of Americans.  From the First Amendment issues related to the controversy over the siting of a Mosque near Ground Zero in New York, to the legal rights of those held in Guantanamo Bay, to the rights and responsibilities of immigrants in our country, the U.S. Constitution forms the basis of the democracy in which we all live.

As we approach 'Constitution and Citizenship Day' - created by an act of Congress in 2004 and celebrated each year on September 17th - The New York State Bar Association, its  Law, Youth and Citizenship (LYC) Committee and other partners, have created a website (www.nysba.org/ConstitutionDay) packed with a wealth of resources to help educators, civic groups and parents create meaningful and engaging activities and lesson plans to commemorate this important day.

"On September 17, 1787, when our forefathers adopted the Constitution of the United States of America, they created the framework of one of the most important governing documents in all history," said State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP). "Amended only 27 times in its 223-year history, our Constitution is the living, breathing cornerstone for the greatest Democracy in the world.  In offering the Constitution Day website, the State Bar Association, under the leadership of James Hanlon and the LYC Committee, has created an outstanding resource that will provide our next generation of leaders with a greater understanding of their government and the important role that citizenship plays in building a strong democratic society."

Hanlon, of Clarence, New York and chair of the Law, Youth and Citizenship Committee, added, "As a teacher and lawyer, I am committed to helping school-age children all across the country understand the Constitution and how it shapes their lives.  Constitution Day is an excellent opportunity for teachers and parents to introduce - or perhaps, reintroduce - this remarkable document to young people. The LYC Constitution Day website is filled with engaging, fun and informative activities that highlight different aspects of the Constitution.  I urge teachers, parents, and all Americans to visit the website to see all it has to offer."

The State Bar's Law, Youth and Citizenship Committee, along with a large network of New York civic and law-related education teachers, has assisted educators for over three decades in securing Constitution-related resources and training.

Among the helpful programs and resources offered on the LYC Committee's Constitution and Citizenship Day website are:

• Center for Civic Education www.civiced.org:  Lessons for grades K-12 are available for no cost from the Center's website at constitutionday.civiced.org. These lessons, designed to assist schools and federal agencies to meet the requirements of the legislation, have been adapted from the Center's We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution and Foundations of Democracy curricular materials. Audio recordings of selected Constitution Day lessons are also available on the Center's website.

• iCivics   http://www.icivics.org/teachers: Students will learn how and why our Constitution was created and what some of its key characteristics are. They will also explore key amendments to the Constitution and their application in protecting citizens' rights.

• The Constitutional Sources Project  www.consource.org: ConSource was founded in 2005 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the singular goal of creating and maintaining the first, free, fully-indexed, comprehensive online library of constitutional sources. Its mission is to facilitate research and encourage discussion of the U.S. Constitution by connecting individuals - including students, teachers, lawyers and judges - with the documentary history of its creation, ratification and amendment.  

Congress passed legislation in 2004 requiring educational institutions that receive federal funding to present a program focused on the Constitution each year on September 17th - now known as 'Constitution and Citizenship Day' - to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the famed document by delegates to the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787.

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The Law, Youth and Citizenship (LYC) Program promotes citizenship and law-related education in schools throughout New York State. LYC assists educators in creating opportunities for students to become effective citizens able to participate fully in our democratic society.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.