Help Make Physical Education Not Legally Required in New York State Public High Schools

Help Make Physical Education Not Legally Required in New York State Public High Schools

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Violet McCarley started this petition to New York State Education Department and

Sign this petition to make change, and to make Physical Education a completely optional class for public high school students in New York State. This petition will be attached in a longer email to the NYSED Board of Regents containing valid reasons to change the graduation requirements in New York State (shortened versions of those reasons are at the bottom of this description). It will benefit all students, athletic or not, and will overall improve the New York public school environment. 

Public school students K-12 in New York State are required by law to take Physical Education for every year of school. This is a problematic requirement for a multitude of reasons, including ableist discrimination, discrimination on the basis of physical ability and weight, bullying, lowering high school graduation rates, increasing the need for summer school, mental health and self esteem issues, the enduring issue of valuing sports over the arts and other non-core classes and extra-curriculars, and wasting academic time for students. Read further to get more information on the issues that come from requiring Physical Education. 

Here are some short reasons why Physical Education should not be a required class:

Students that are naturally unathletic, overweight, or students who have disabilities are less likely to pass Physical Education, for reasons that are beyond their control. These same students are also more likely to get bullied in Physical Education for their limited abilities in performing well in sports or other exercise activities. This bullying comes from their peers and their teachers, and often goes unnoticed and unresolved. Bullying in Physical Education can cause mental health problems, just like bullying in any other environment and for any other reason. It can also cause self-esteem issues, causing students to hate their own bodies and minds for their inability to perform well. Students may end up with severe body image issues and self-worth issues due to Physical Education. For these students, Physical Education is nothing but a source of stress, torment, mental anguish, and public humiliation. These students should not be forced to play sports with their peers, and it should definitely not be required for them to graduate high school. 

It is widely accepted that the opposite of sports is the arts. In New York State, high schools students are required to take 4 years of Physical Education, resulting in 2 credits, while they are only required to take 1 year of an arts class, resulting in 1 credit. This includes music, visual arts, and performing arts. This is just one of the many systems in place that force schools to value sports over the arts. This requirement serves students who are interested in sports, giving them 4 years of a class about sports, and only 1 year of an arts class that they do not care about. For students interested in the arts or simply just not interested in sports, they are forced to take 4 years of a class that they are not interested in, and sacrifice class time that could be better used in an arts class or another elective that serves their own personal interests. This system tells students who do not care about sports that their interests are worth less than others, and that they are not as important as their athletic peers. Public education should serve all students, and give all students the opportunities to pursue their own personal interests. It is not fair to value sports over the arts and other non-core classes and electives, and should not be mandatory for students to graduate high school.

Often, there are very bright students who perform well in their core classes, but fail Physical Education due to disinterest or limited ability. The requirement of Physical Education increases the need for additional semesters and summer school. Often, students are prevented from graduating or moving to the next grade level due to failing Physical Education, and require summer school or extra semesters of school after graduation, solely devoted to physical education. This takes away from important time, preventing should-be graduates from going to college or working, and taking away valuable time in the summer, when students should be enjoying their summer vacation with friends and family. Students who are prevented from graduating because of Physical Education are more likely to just drop out of high school rather than devoting another few semesters to Physical Education. If the goal is to create more high school graduates, and to decrease the need for additional corrective education, then Physical Education is a direct hindrance to the realization of that goal. Students should not required to take additional classes just to finish a class devoted to teaching about sports. 

The goal of Physical Education was to encourage young people to get more exercise, and to combat childhood obesity. While its intentions were good, its outcome was not what was expected. Students who do not have interest in sports or working out will most likely not be more inclined to exercise, whether that be in Physical Education or outside of school. They are not likely to retain information about the rules of sports, good workouts, or healthy exercise habits. Students who do not enjoy exercise will most likely feel that Physical Education is merely a waste of their time. The time that Physical Education takes up could be much better used with another elective class or a work period/study hall. After all, school should be a place for academics and for students to pursue their interests, and if a student is not interested in an active lifestyle class, it should not be forced upon them. 

This is an unfinished list of reasons based on a single person's experiences and opinions. If anyone else has any other valid reasons as to why Physical Education should be optional for high school students, or has any experiences with Physical Education that can contribute to the fight, please feel free to add them in this google form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSccXD7EY2VImbuV7B_sst_8Z8zndkNNFLDmS8j-OWyEYGkSRw/viewform?usp=sf_link These statements will be used to create a stronger argument and to give firsthand accounts of the negative effects that Physical Education can have on students in the fight to end mandatory Physical Education. More information about these statements and how they will be used is included in the description of the google form. 

Please also feel free to email the NYSED Board of Regents Office on this issue at regentsoffice@nysed.gov if you feel so inclined. 

Please help in the fight to end mandatory Physical Education classes in New York State!

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At 100 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!