Tuesday, April 5, 2011

School Recess Restrictions for Discipline- Are These Okay?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Once in awhile, a parent is surprised when their child tells them they were held in during recess by the teacher, and did not get a break that day.  Unfortunately, this may be okay for a teacher to do.  However, such restrictions should not be overused.

Recently I met with a family involved in a discipline dispute with a school district.  During our discussion, it came up that the boy who had gotten into trouble had not had any recesses for a long period of time due to continuing behavior issues.  Although this was not the main focus of our discussion, what the family reported to me was disturbing simply as this was the "new" schedule of this boy, one with NO RECESS.  Additionally, the withholding of his recesses did NOT solve his behavior issues.

Per California Education Code section 44807.5:

"The governing board of a school district may adopt reasonable rules and regulations to authorize a teacher to restrict for disciplinary purposes the time a pupil under his or her supervision is allowed for recess."

This is the entirety of the statute.

My comment on this is:

1)  The school board must actually have adopted such a policy to allow a teacher to do this, and
2)  The rules and/or regulations must be "reasonable," and
3)  The restriction itself must be reasonable in length of time and duration (e.g. how many days).

No kid should be kept in from every recess.  Youths need to get out of the classroom to have a break, run around, and just interact socially with other kids.  If this is not allowed, the conduct for which the youth is being punished may, in fact, worsen.  This is because if a child is "overpunished," (by e.g.via  missing all recesses with no hope of getting them back) the punishment may no longer have the desired impact.  The child may instead not be motivated to "act good," as acting good has no impact anyway.  They give up.  The teacher's recess restriction may also result in a negative image regarding the student, as he or she may be labelled as a troublemaker and may be ostracized and/or looked down upon by his or her peer group.

Additionally, if such restrictions are occurring, the school may effectively be put on notice that they need to take action to address the issues.  A Student Study Team (SST) meeting, behavior assessment, or other actions could be in order.

School is not only about academics, but is also about socialization, exercise, life, and fun.  It should not be such that it becomes a prison where a student never gets let out of the cage.  That would hardly be beneficial for anyone

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

1 comment:

  1. Does this statute allow principals to take away the free play time at lunch for an entire school as well? We have had this issue several times at my sons' elementary school. The principal claims all the kids are generally too loud. They have not been able to define what too loud is to the understanding of the kids and they are not accusing the children of misbehaving in any other way. They are not speaking inappropriately or getting up or littering, etc. Once in a while the principal seems to randomly decide it is too loud and has the entire 3rd -5th grade just sit quietly at their lunch tables for the play time of lunch. In addition, the teachers are not instructed to compensate for this time (although some of the good ones do) so many kids do not get anywhere near the required 25 minutes of activity on these days. I was just wondering if there is any legal issue here or just plain bad judgement. Thanks!

    Angry in Woodland Hills


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