Mandatory school recess bill losing steam

Posted at 8:51 PM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 20:52:38-05

A bill making recess mandatory in Florida elementary schools is hitting a road block.

The state House approved the bill Thursday, but it might not make it past the Senate.

Chris Owen is full of energy and like a lot of second graders he loves recess.

"I like to play outside, exercise and have fun outside time with friends," he says.

But unlike a lot of second graders, Chris is taking his fight for recess to Tallahassee.

He wrote a letter and went to the capitol with his mom last week to tell lawmakers why every grade schooler needs recess.

"It is not fair for some kids to get recess and other kids don't," he says.

His mom, Sharon, is part of a statewide group called "Recess Moms." It supports a bill which mandates every elementary student get 20 minutes of uninterrupted recess every day.

The House approved its version of the bill (HB 833) Thursday with overwhelming support. But for it to become law, the Senate has to approve the bill as well.

Recess Moms say Senator John Legg, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, is blocking the Senate's version of the bill (SB 1002) from going to his committee, a crucial step toward getting the entire Senate to vote on the bill.

He argues the issue should be handled by each school district and there is no one size fits all approach.

Recess Moms continue to push, calling and emailing Legg and the Senate President, urging him to go above Legg's authority and bring the bill directly to a vote.

"It's not fair to not hear the voices of the thousands of parents out there who have been calling him and voicing their opinion on why recess is important," says Sharon.

She says a break from coursework helps students focus. Plus kids learn social skills on the playground they don't in the classroom.

Sharon has two children. Chris gets a recess everyday. But her older child, in fourth grad, does not.

In Palm Beach County, a school district spokesperson says each school sets its own guidelines for recess.

The principal at Crosspointe in Boynton Beach (not the Owens's school) sets aside 30 minutes every day and says she sees students putting what they learn in class to use.

"Communicating, figuring out the distance of things, so they kind of put it all into play when they're outside," Annmarie Dilbert explains.

Chris and his mom say every kid should have a chance to do just that.