Bill would bar schools from withholding outdoor recess or lunch as punishment

Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

Elementary and middle school in California would be required to provide every student an outdoor recess period of at least 30 minutes — weather permitting — and would not be allowed to deny recess as a disciplinary measure under a bill introduced Thursday.

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who authored SB 291, said in a news release that behavioral disruptions have become “increasingly prevalent in classrooms,” as California emerges from the pandemic and its impacts. That’s why the benefits of “unstructured play and peer-to-peer social interactions offered by recess” are more important now than ever, he said.

While other states including Florida, New Jersey, Arizona and Missouri have adopted standardized school recess policies, California’s education code on recess doesn’t pertain to the quantity and quality of recess times in schools, Newman said.

Rebecca London, a University of California, Santa Cruz associate professor of sociology, who has been studying recess in California for more than 15 years, said it’s “essential” that all California students have downtime every day to “stretch their social, emotional, and physical development through play, socialization with peers and interactions with adults.”

“Recess is an important opportunity for building a positive school climate and for helping all students go back to their classrooms after recess feeling restored and ready to learn,” London said.

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