US: California schools not providing students with enough exercise time
WORLD / California, U.S. – 37 school districts now have to show the state they are providing students with required exercise in school.
In 2011, The City Project and the Sarah Samuels Center published a report on physical education. In California, public schools are required to provide physical education under laws requiring at least 20 minutes on average per day in elementary schools, and at least 40 minutes on average per day in middle and high schools. The report stated “yet, over 1,000 public school districts in the state, 188 were audited from 2004-09 and exactly half were not enforcing physical education minute requirements”.
Lawsuit by parent
According to Sara Hayden’s report for the LA Times, a lawsuit was filed in October in San Francisco County Superior Court on behalf of plaintiffs Marc Babin, a parent, and Cal200, an organization he heads that advocates for elementary school physical education. Babin’s children, now adults, went to school in the Alameda Unified School District, one of the defending districts, according to his attorney, Donald Driscoll.
“School districts have been routinely ignoring the law,” Driscoll said. And the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest, “has been a particular offender. They give lip service to the idea that P.E. is important. That just plain doesn’t work. What that produces is kids who don’t get enough exercise.”
L.A. Unified obesity rate above national average
The California Center for Public Health Advocacy published a 2002 report overweight and unfit children in California. The L.A. Unified’s obesity rate ballooned and exceeded the national average ten years later in 2012. L.A. Unified is the largest public school district in California and the second largest in the nation, serving over 670,000 K-12 students in over 900 schools.
Each audit between 2004 and 2009 found that the district did not enforce physical education minute requirements. The district faces other implementation challenges beyond its size – budget, lack of qualified physical education teachers and inadequate space allocation for physical activities were also reasons provided.
Physical Education policy implementation
Before the implementation of the P.E. policy, “there were (no) opportunities for exercise. Many schools left children without organized activities, there were (no) sports programs, nothing to play with your friends. As a result, there’s many overweight kids and illnesses related to that.” It seems now that poor implementation is the stumbling block towards a healthier lifestyle for the children.
One key stakeholder believed that the physical education plan might have been better if it required physical education to be fully integrated into the academic curriculum by linking physical education to math, science and other “classroom subjects.” “If I would have had my desire, I would have rather had a reform that included PE as an integral part of the whole day, not just mandating minutes that should be spent outside. I do recognize that would have been asking a lot, though.”