Georgia Passes 'Mandatory Recess Law' for School Children

Last night before bed, I was poking around Facebook to see what all I missed. A friend is turning 52 - LIKE. Another friend had a baby - LOVE. And then I saw it. The Today Show posted a story about Georgia passing a law that makes it mandatory for K-5 students to have unstructured playtime during a school day.

The article states that:

"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.

Under the new legislation, teachers and school officials cannot take away a student’s recess for “disciplinary or academic reasons.”

So, I'm here for this. 100%

Andrey Burmakin

How Are Teachers Supposed to Discipline Students?

Now, I'm not a teacher nor do I work with children. But I know plenty of teachers and one of the things that I've heard through the years is that teachers have lost the ability to discipline children.

When I was a kid at Masonville Elementary, if you were misbehaving and had a teacher who believed in corporal punishment, a wooden ruler made a terrifically terrifying sound when it whapped your desk. You only hoped your fingers weren't under it. And if you were a real problem, you'd take a trip up to the red bench that eventually led to Mr. Baun and his red paddle.

My husband, who attended a school in Evansville, was paddled in front of an entire grade for taking a stand against a bully. Needless to say, even though the practice has since been replaced with softer disciplinary methods, my own child will never set foot inside that building.

So, what's a teacher to do? Clip you down to "sad face" on the chart? Assign extra work? Withhold a trip to the treasure box?

As my daughter gets older, a common punishment is to take away recess or make her walk around the track while others play. Now before we get started here, let me just say that I love my daughter's school and respect the teachers and administrators who provide a really great educational environment. But I do not agree with taking away her 20 minutes of recess throughout the day as punishment. And 10 states agree that young children need recess. According to the National Association of State Boards of Education Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, and now Georgia mandate recess time.

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Teacher Monitors Standardized Test

Why is Recess Important for Children?

The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article citing the CDC's findings on the crucial role of recess in school. In the article, the AAP stated:

Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.
Thinking people with question signs and light idea bulb above

Neuroatypical Kids Really Suffer from Lack of Exercise and Unstructured Play But Are Often the MOST Punished

My daughter is diagnosed with ADHD - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as dyslexia. She takes a long time to do just about anything and everything and yet she's always on the move. She has a hard time - a really hard time - not interacting with the people around her. She takes medication to help her. At home, we talk about behavior. We practice good behavior. We do the things that set her up for success. But she's still going to need work to get better at this. And her brain and body are developing. Guess what taking away her recess does to her? IT MAKES IT WORSE. And, it makes her not want to go to school.

All children need recess. It's like, as adults we forget that children are people and childhood is hard. You are being told what to do, where to sit, who to talk to, when to talk, when you can go to the bathroom, and to focus and be 100% all day, five days a week. Then some kids don't get to go home and relax. I remember being a kid and hating not being able to make my own choices about my life. And it was the Eighties - things were so much simpler then!

Billings TSM
Billings TSM

Is Recess Mandatory in Kentucky and Indiana?

So, what do Indiana and Kentucky say about recess or physical education?

(Fun Fact: Elementary schools in Warrick Co. don't have dedicated PE teachers. Don't even get me started about that.)

Recess Laws in Indiana

According to Indiana Code Title 20. Education § 20-30-5-7.5: "Beginning in the 2006-2007 school year, the governing body of each school corporation shall provide daily physical activity for students in elementary school.  The physical activity may include the use of recess.  On a day when there is inclement weather or unplanned circumstances have shortened the school day, the school corporation may provide physical activity alternatives or elect not to provide physical activity."

Notice it doesn't say how much is required.

Recess Laws in Kentucky

According to, "Kentucky has no requirements for K-5 schools to schedule set amounts of time for recess, PE, or other types of physical activity. State and federal laws related to physical activity in K-5 schools do require districts and schools to enact wellness policies that promote physical activity; require local school boards to provide physical activity reports to the public; require the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to report physical activity in K-5 schools annually to the Legislative Research Commission; and require schools to adopt assessment tools to assess each child’s level of physical activity."

Let's get a little real with each other here... our governing bodies absolutely LOVE to make laws and mandate the heck out of everything they can but they don't have the time to set up recess guidelines in schools. Neat.

Student aiming paper plane at teacher writing on blackboard

Taking Away Recess is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE - It's Science!

And again, I'm not here to dog teachers or administrators. It's a hard job - one that I don't want under any circumstances. Kids can be little monsters and parents are worse. They have to meet impossible standards and squeeze in way too much academically. They don't have time for kids to be actin' a fool.

There is a reason there is a teacher shortage. Heck, there's a shortage in all school-related fields. I was at school the other day and a janitor had to leave the appreciation breakfast that we set up because she had to clean up puke from a child who had an anxiety attack. I was shocked - she was not. She said it happens DAILY. Who wants to deal with that?!

I just have to wonder - is taking away a child's only time during the day to take a social, emotional, and physical break actually making it harder on the teacher and the student? Apparently, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and 10 states seem to think so.

group of happy kids having fun on playground

What Can I Do to Make Sure My Kid Gets Recess?

Start with Your Child

Nothing will ever get done if we don't start from the bottom. Your first step is to start with your child. They are accountable for their actions. Good behavior leads to recess time. Talk to them about why they missed recess and how to avoid those behaviors in the future.

Talk to your Child's Doctor if You Suspect Neuro Divergence

Getting my child diagnosed with ADHD/Dyslexia was no easy process. But it was worth it. If you think your child is struggling, talk to their doctor and the school about testing.

Talk to the Teachers and Admins at the School

Talk to your child's teacher and school. My daughter was missing recess quite frequently this past school year. She was getting it from all angles - the teacher, the cafeteria monitor, hallway teachers - she even lost an entire recess because the recess teacher misunderstood the teacher and another kid was supposed to sit out. Then she was missing to catch up on daily work and AR. I had a very nice conversation (seriously, I was not hateful or accusatory) about how I can help her at home to make sure she gets to attend every minute of recess and it helped.

Talk to Your Child's Special Education Dept

If your child has been diagnosed as neuroatypical, see about adding mandatory recess to their IEP.

Contact your Law Makers

Get it on the books that kids need recess. Here's a handy resource for all 50 states. 

See How School Cafeteria Meals Have Changed Over the Past 100 Years

Using government and news reports, Stacker has traced the history of cafeteria meals from their inception to the present day, with data from news and government reports. Read on to see how various legal acts, food trends, and budget cuts have changed what kids are getting on their trays.

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