Some States Are Looking To Make Recess Time Mandatory In School

By Erika Hanson | 2 months ago


Recess has long been standard practice inside schools with young children. But in growing fashion, school teachers are found to punish students by taking away that privilege despite research showing how free play can foster young learners’ minds. Because of this, many states are looking to make recess a mandatory part of the school day for children in various states.

Early education is reported to be more demanding on young children than ever before. Longer and more structured school days are met with higher demands on students. According to information from pediatricians and experts in child development, recess offers exhausted and burned-out children a chance to break up the challenging days in school. But still today, it is common for teachers to withhold recess to kids who misbehave, and now several states are thinking about outlawing this practice.


NBC News reports that lawmakers in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Minnesota have introduced bills over the past year to prohibit schools from withholding recess as a form of punishment. These four states look to join the growing momentum of territories that have already made free play time a necessity for some schoolchildren. Eleven other states along with Washington, D.C., and New York City already have policies that restrict teachers from taking away recess from children, yet most still don’t have any outright bans of the process.

Even in areas that restrict recess punishment, the enactment of these policies is said to be rare. Oftentimes, parents within these areas still report that their children lose out on recess periods. Some educators take it away as a form of punishment, while others forgo recess because of the growing demands for students to reach a certain academic level. NBC reports that there are often little to no consequences for teachers that fail to give these students their allotted recess break. 


Many proponents in child development say that teachers who withhold recess from students are enacting a form of shadow discipline. These types of punishment are titled this way because they often go unnoticed. It can be seen through a student who is told to sit outside the classroom in silence for acting up in class. Or, in this case, telling a young child they must remain inside while the rest of the class goes to the playground. A recent Texas survey dived deep into the topic, finding that this form of discipline rarely shows results, and often disproportionately affects students of color and with disabilities. 

While there are a plethora of different reasons teachers often punish students by taking away recess, the growing practice often points to grueling demands educators face. Part of this could be because districts lack support for teachers on how to handle unruly behavior. Other reasons could be because teachers are now faced with longer than ever work days, and the stress often comes in the form of lashing out at students. 

Teachers around the United States are faced with strenuous demands to implement core lessons, enrichment specials, test prep, and much more. Finding time for recess can be a tedious task, and taking that time away from young children can be seen as outright cruelty. More states are catching on to this, as student well-being has become a major focus in education.