New Legislation Would Guarantee Daily Recess for All California Students K-8
Sacramento, Calif.— Senator Josh Newman, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, introduced his first education bill of the year, SB 291, which will ensure all K-8 pupils in California have access to a minimum standard of recess while prohibiting the withholding of recess as a form of punishment or discipline.
A wide body of research has found that recess serves as a critical outlet and break for students to reset their minds and bodies during otherwise structured school days filled with academic demands. Recess offers students numerous cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits and results in students being more attentive and better able to perform school tasks.
“As California finally emerges from the pandemic and its impacts, we are seeing some of the lingering effects on children’s social-emotional development play out in the form of behavioral disruptions which have become increasingly prevalent in classrooms,” said Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). “As schools and students seek to recover from COVID-related educational disruptions, the benefits of the unstructured play and peer-to-peer social interactions offered by recess are more important now than ever.”
Despite the research, the denial of all or part of recess still remains a common practice in schools, employed as punishment for infractions such as failing to finish work, talking out of turn or not following directions. Recess detentions also tend to disproportionately impact students from disadvantaged communities, as well as those with disabilities.
"Recess is the only unstructured time in the school day where students have the opportunity to stretch their social, emotional, and physical development through play, socialization with peers, and interactions with adults. It is essential that all California students have the right to this downtime every day, and that it is not withheld for punishment. Recess is an important opportunity for building a positive school climate and for helping all students to go back to their classrooms after recess feeling restored and ready to learn. I applaud Senator Newman for prioritizing Recess for All and fully support these efforts," said Rebecca London, Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of Campus + Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been studying recess in California for more than 15 years.
Unlike other states which have adopted standardized school recess policies, such as Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Arizona, California currently has no statewide standardized policy governing the quantity and quality of recess time in its schools. In fact, under existing state law, school districts are actually directed to adopt policies authorizing teachers to restrict a student’s recess time for disciplinary purposes. As a consequence, gaps exist across the state’s school systems with respect to access to daily recess, and the presence of these gaps tends to correlate with other equity and performance deficits across California’s educational systems.
"I am so glad to see Senator Newman prioritizing recess in California schools. Evidence from other states shows that when recess is legislated at the state level, schools are more likely to provide students with the minutes. And providing students with the opportunity to, as my 8-year-old son calls it, ‘get the wiggles out,’ is more important now than ever. There are countless documented benefits to school recess, including increased student physical activity; increased social and emotional development; and improved attention, memory, concentration, and on-task behavior in the classroom, said Hannah R. Thompson, Ph.D., MPH, Assistant Research Professor, UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
Under SB 291, elementary and middle schools in California will be required to provide students with a daily recess period of at least 30 minutes, to be held outdoors, weather permitting. Additionally, SB 291 would prohibit a student from being denied recess as a disciplinary measure, unless their participation would pose an immediate threat to the physical safety of others or their own physical safety.
To schedule an interview with Senator Newman, contact Lizzie Cootsona at 916.651.4029.
State Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which is comprised of portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Bernardino County. The 29th District includes all or parts of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, City of Industry, Cypress, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Stanton, Walnut, West Covina and Yorba Linda. Senator Newman is a former United States Army officer, businessperson, and veterans’ advocate, and lives in Fullerton with his wife and daughter.