Local School Wellness Policies: Physical Education
November 15, 2006 -- Physical education is back! Recently, many districts cut P.E., as they faced tight budgets and schedules, as well as pressure to focus on other classes. Now, many are adding P.E. to their Local School Wellness Policies. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 charges local schools and communities with developing Local School Wellness Policies (LSWPs). From a proscriptive approach to none at all, schools from coast to coast are determining their levels of responsibility for children’s physical education. With studies showing a sharp decrease in physical activity among children, could P.E. turn the tide? Take a look:
Baltimore City Public School System
Policy Overview: Baltimore’s policy covers nutrition standards, maximizing participation in the school meal program, fundraisers, outside foods, marketing on behalf of school meals, nutrition and physical education, establishing a school garden, staff wellness, partnering with outside groups for related field trips and more.
Physical Education Rules: Proscriptive.
Under the BCPSS policy, schools must provide physical education from highly qualified teachers, and all students in K-12 will receive opportunities to be physically active. Physical education must comply with Code of Maryland regulations and be aligned with the Maryland State Department of Education Voluntary State Curriculum Framework. Physical education must be designed with the student’s gender, culture, physical ability and mental ability in mind, and all equipment and facilities should be safe, clean and accessible for everyone. The district intends to engage parents and community members in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of physical education.
Lynn (Mass.) Public Schools
Policy Overview: The Lynn Public Schools policy states, ”A progressive and sequential approach to nutrition and physical activity promotes healthy weight maintenance and reduces the risk of many chronic diseases including hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and asthma.” The LSWP covers nutrition guidelines for school meals, competitive foods, cafeteria atmosphere, time for eating, food safety, nutrition education for both students and their families, physical activity, fundraisers, food in the classroom and staff wellness.
Physical Education Rules: Mandated.
The LSWP calls for the district to make physical activities available before, during and after school. Physical education is a required subject for grades K-10 and offered to grades 11-12. The LSWP explains, “Physical education classes should be taught by state-certified teachers in an environment where students learn, practice and are assessed on developmentally appropriate motor skills, social skills and knowledge in accordance with the MA Health Curriculum Frameworks. Physical education will include the instruction of individual activities, fitness, team activities and dance to encourage life-long physical activity.”
Not only must faculty teach physical education, they are encouraged to model healthy physical activity. In addition, the LSWP discourages all teachers from using physical activity as reward or punishment and from canceling recess to make up lost classroom time. Students should not be sedentary for more than two consecutive hours and should receive encouragement to stand and stretch. The LSWP also states that physical education information will be provided to students’ families.
Capistrano USD, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Policy Overview: The LSWP states, “The Superintendent or designee shall build a coordinated school health system that supports and reinforces health literacy through health education, physical education, health services, nutrition services, counseling services, health promotion for staff, a safe and healthy school environment, and parent/guardian and community involvement.” The policy also covers such topics as food marketing, fundraising, staff wellness and nutrition education for both students and their families. It allows for additional school-based activities that the district determines might promote student wellness.
Physical Education Rules: Encouraged.
Each school must post the physical activity policies of the district and of the California Department of Education, while the district’s governing board carries the responsibility of setting physical education goals. The LSWP notes, “The district’s nutrition education and physical education programs shall be based on research, consistent with the expectations established in the state’s curriculum frameworks and designed to build the skills and knowledge that all students need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” All K-12 students will receive opportunities to be physically active, whether during school or after school. The LSWP adds, “Furthermore, the Board strongly encourages the use of physical activity as a reward for students, when appropriate.”
Harnett County (N.C.) Schools
Policy Overview: The Harnett County Board of Education says it is committed to providing a school environment that enhances learning and development of lifelong wellness practices. Its policy covers school meals, nutrition education, physical activity, competitive foods, food safety and the atmosphere.
“The school environment is safe, comfortable, pleasing and allows ample time and space for eating meals,” states one of the policy’s goals.
Physical Education Rules: Mentioned.
Another goal of Harnett’s LSWP is that “patterns of meaningful physical activity connect to students’ lives outside of physical education.” Similar to the Lynn district policy, the Harnett LSWP states that physical activity is not to be used as a reward—or a punishment—by teachers under any circumstances. No further guidance is included.