New Law Prevents Schools from ‘Taking Away Recess’ for Disciplinary Reasons

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A new mandatory recess law went into effect in Georgia stating students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade must have “unstructured break time” daily while school is in session. They will now have mandatory recess, daily.

Earlier this week, Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed the bill into law, making recess a requirement for all elementary students. “Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, each elementary school shall schedule recess for all students in kindergarten and grades one through five every school day,” the bill reads. This means teachers can’t take away recess for “disciplinary or academic reasons.”

A report called, “The Crucial Role of Recess in School” published in the American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.”

Georgia joins Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia in making recess mandatory, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education. The law does make exceptions for things like scheduled field trips, weather, and all-school assemblies.

Giving kids time for unstructured play not only gives them a break during a long school day, it helps build confidence, strengthen relationships, builds trust, and helps kids develop fine motor skills. It also gives them the opportunity to run and play and just be kids.

Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, has been asking Kemp to sign the bill (which was previously vetoed in 2019) for five years. The former Georgia Bulldogs football player cited, in part, his concern about obesity among children as a factor for considering the legislation.

“Speaking as a teacher first, I think we will all be liberated because we’ve always been the voice of our students. They want to play,” Reese Road Leadership Academy teacher Caprisha Battle told WTVM. “They want to go outside. Because the academic pressures have increased, our students need an outlet.”

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