calling for a mandatory listen about mandatory recess.

{Recess} a general term for a period of time in which a group of people is temporarily dismissed from its duties. In parlimentary prodecure, a recess is initiated by a motion of recess.

Unfortunately, in Texas schools (along with a vast amount of schools across the country), the definition of recess is also accompanied with the terms “optional”, “waste of valuable learning time”, “unnecessary mandate”, “dangerous” and “expensive”.

Let me reiterate: Recess is not a law. Your kid does not automatically get recess. Go ask your child if they get recess everyday.  Have a momentary freak-out, and then continue reading.

In 2008, a parent in Richardson ISD  was successful in getting a bill filed with the Texas House that required  20 minutes of daily unstructured recess for elementary schools in Texas. The bill, HB159, was never put to a vote. Actually, it never made it out of committee and has since been retired. According to this article,

Rep. Rob Eissler, powerful chairman of the House Education Committee, says he understands the benefits of recess but isn’t ready to support another state mandate. “We try to leave the discretion to the people running the schools who are the people closest to the kids,” he said. The bill is stuck in Eissler’s committee. 

I agree that sometimes, mandates do get out of hand. However, I do not consider a mandate allowing children recess is something to ignore. (It’s borderline embarrasing when you have to mandate common sense.)

If leaving discretion to the people closest to the kids is best…then it may be time to take a step back and consider that the people closest are the parents. Not the people running the schools.

you didn’t ask, but i’ll tell you what i think anyway.  

The policy-makers-that-be are not the ones affected by the lack of recess. It’s the kids. My kid. Your kid. The kid you hope to have one day. The kid that you will eventually hire at your business. They are the ones that get to sit in an over-crowded classroom for hours on end. They are the ones that have to digest, then retain, new information on a daily basis. They are the ones that eat the school lunches, breakfasts, and now *shudder* dinners loaded with additives that cause hyperactivity. They are the ones that have homework in the evening. They are the ones who have obstacle after obstacle set in front of them, and then, are expected to pass a convoluted standardized test in a non-standardized system. A failing test means their school will lose funding, their teacher’s job will be on the line and their school district will receive a lower rating.  (Geez…no biggie.)

recess gone wild

There is a reason for putting the words “unstructured”  and “mandatory” in front of recess. Think of it as an unpaid work break like you would get at work. It is time that you can step away and, well, take a break.

My friend Amy has children in a North Texas school district. Her children get recess…kind of. Her daughter’s class used their recess time walking laps around the playground when they failed to return letters that needed to be signed by their parents. Yep, because Amy (the mom) forgot to sign and return a note, her daughter was punished by walking laps.

Another mom in a different school district, has a child in school that only gets recess if the whole class remains quite during their lunch time. Because her child’s class has a couple of chatty kids, her child rarely gets recess…even though he is well-behaved.

How would you react if your boss came up to you and said, “Hey Just a Mom in Mesquite, Craig over in cubicle 17 is talking a bit too loud. I’m going to have to take your break away today. And, umm, tomorrow’s break looks like a no-go too. Sally was supposed to have some supplies delivered and the delivery guys didn’t show.  I know, I know, this always happens. But, really, how are Craig and Sally going to learn if the whole office isn’t held accountable?”


so, what can we do?

We can start by telling our legislators to pass a bill requiring an unstructured mandatory recess bill. We can do our own research and get informed about the benefits of recess and how it relates to learning. We can share our information with other parents and encourge them to do the same. Tell your legislators that recess is free. School recess has been linked to higher test scores, higher student attendence and healthier, well-adjusted kids.

Tell them they do not have to spend money…yet they will end up saving the state money.

in honor of the one year anniversary for Let’s Move….let’s move.

Despite all of the evidence supporting recess, it is still falling on deaf ears. In giving folks a *hefty* benefit of the doubt, I will assume that they are waiting to hear from us parents. I will assume that supporting positions from the hundreds of non-profit childhood health and education organizations are not enough. Research from professionals way smarter than me is not making the guys budge. Even this excerpt from School Administrator magazine didn’t do it:

We have gotten to the point of having to legislate recess as two movements careen directly toward each other–the accountability movement and childhood obesity. The accountability movement, along with its testing requirements, has deep roots in Texas, which served as a guinea pig for the rest of the nation gearing up for No Child Left Behind. As for obesity, Texas ranks fourth in percentage of seriously overweight children, with nearly one in five being considered obese. Texas also can lay claim to having five of the top 15 “fattest cities” in the nation.- John A. Sutterby “Recess and the accountability movement“. School Administrator.


Yes, since they have heard from everyone, but parents, I will assume that is what they are waiting for.

this is where you come in

I am asking (ok, more like begging and pleading on hands and knees) you to sign my petition supporting mandatory recess in Texas elementary schools. Just click the link below and sign. You do not have to be from Texas. Anyone can sign it…even your kid who isn’t getting recess. Currently, only eight states require recess. If we can successfully get this to pass in Texas of all me, your state can too.

And then..if you really want to help…pass it on! Link to it, email it, Facebook it, Twitter it, StumbleUpon it, print it out and get signatures from people who don’t have internet access..anything!

Keep this in mind: Every signature on this petition shoots an email out to our legislators telling them to support mandatory recess. Every signature not on this petition….does nothing.

All right then, (gets up from hands and knees) let’s do this!  😉


2 Comments to “calling for a mandatory listen about mandatory recess.”

  1. Thank you Neil! I’ll link to your site…lots of great information!

  2. Signed. Anyone interested in this issue might also check out the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas legislative priorities, which include making sure that school districts aren’t forced to choose between better health education and better academic achievement.

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