Moving Towards Recess as a Right in West Babylon Schools

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As parents in the West Babylon School District, we are concerned with the common occurrence of using recess as a disciplinary measure or for poor student performance such as not completing classwork/homework.  Increasingly, recess is being taken away as a group punishment for being too loud/rowdy in the cafeteria or because students cannot keep up with the increasingly difficult curriculum on an almost daily basis.  This has become a habit rather than implementing a proactive behavior management system. The district often discusses gearing the West Babylon School culture towards the whole child, however this type of discipline ignores one very important part of child development—access to free self-directed play.

Overwhelmingly, research shows that students who have access to free self-directed play do better in the classroom, socially, educationally and behaviorally.  The more time spent in free play, the better the focus and readiness to learn in the classroom.  Most often, recess gets taken away from the children who need free play the most so they can focus and be attentive the rest of the day.

A 2018 survey of 500 U.S. elementary school teachers was conducted by Wakefield Research.  The survey showed “After recess, 81 percent of teachers said that kids’ behaviors changes positively. These changes include more positive moods, longer attention spans, fewer behavior issues, increased participation in class, more eagerness to learn, and improved academic performance. In terms of students who tend to behave badly, nearly all the teachers surveyed – 97 percent – agreed that recess improves their behavior. Also, 95 percent agree that recess improves their students’ social interactions, 78 percent noted their students are focused and ready for their next lesson when they return from recess and 100 percent said recess is essential for young students’ mental and physical development.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics states “Recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” Pediatrics Volume 131, Number 1, January 2013.

Center for Disease Control states that “Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, classroom behaviors and cognitive performance.  These benefits and opportunities are particularly important for students with special needs, functional limitations or physical disabilities because they may have more behavioral issues and limited experiences interacting socially with other students.”   The CDC recommends at least 20 minutes of recess daily, going on to specifically state they recommend ‘prohibiting the exclusion of students from recess for disciplinary reasons or academic performance in the classroom’.

We are asking the West Babylon Board of Education to review recommendations from national organizations regarding using recess as a disciplinary measure or as a time to make up unfinished work.  Recess is being taken away out of habit and lack of understanding of positive behavioral interventions.  We owe it to our children to provide our teachers, paras and staff with the tools and training to create a positive culture around behavior management.