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6/18/2016 General Assembly passes legislation requiring schools to have at least 20 minutes of free play recess
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) and Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) that would require elementary schools to have at least 20 minutes of free play recess during the school day.

The bills (2016-H 7644Aaa, 2016-S 2669Aaa), which define free play as being in an unstructured environment supervised by appropriate school personnel, discourages schools from taking away recess for academic or punitive reasons. The law would apply to pupils in kindergarten through sixth grade. The measure now heads to the governor’s office.

 “In addition to serving as an important break from the rigors of academics, playtime is a necessity for childhood social and cognitive development,” said Representative Fogarty. “The Rhode Island Department of Education has no standards regarding the duration, quality or scheduling of recess, leaving these decisions up to individual school districts. This legislation will bring equity across all the school systems. No pun intended, but this evens the playing field.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. The organization has stated that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.

“Giving kids the opportunity to go outside and expend a little bit of energy gives them the ability to concentrate a little more,” said Senator Coyne. “Their attention span improves, test scores improve, and the ability to retain information improves. It also encourages healthy lifelong habits by stressing to kids the importance of exercise. So it’s imperative that they get that 20 minutes and we don’t chip away at it.”

According to the legislation, free play recess may be considered instructional time for those schools that would be required to extend the current school day in order to meet this requirement. In addition, it requires teachers to make a good faith effort to not withhold recess for punitive reasons.

Although recess and physical education both promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, it is only supervised but unstructured recess that offers children the opportunity to actually play creatively, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903