Bill would require recess in schools

Legislation that would require school districts to provide 100 minutes of recess each week in elementary schools is moving at the state Capitol.

The Florida House K-12 subcommittee on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill which says schools must provide at least 20 minutes of free-play recess per day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Dozens of parents traveled to Tallahassee to speak in favor of the measure. Among them was Marie-Claire Leman, who has three school-aged children. She says many schools have eliminated recess, since it is not a required part of the day.

"Your responsibility as state legislators is to make sure that our school system is uniform, and that it isn't better for some kids and worse for others," she told lawmakers.  "When there is no state mandate for recess, it means that some kids in Florida have recess and others don't."

"Recess, if we really think back to when we were children on the elementary school playground, was kind of who we were. We didn't necessarily get a chance to be who we were in the classroom, but when we got out there, we were able to run and be free," observed Mindy Haas, president of the Florida PTA.

State Representative Janet Adkins chairs the committee which passed the bill. She says it is unfortunate legislation is even needed in order to assure kids have some playtime.

"This should be handled at the local level, but when it's not handled at the local level and when we are presented data that indicates we have a problem, I think it is incumbent upon us to take on this issue," offered Adkins, R- Fernandina Beach.

Under the bill, recess could not be taken away from children because of disciplinary or academic reasons.

"These are children, not little learning robots. I just think that with all of the important stuff that we mandate they be taught and that they have to learn, we have to let our kids be kids," added State Rep. Joe Geller, D- Aventura.

The legislation still has a long way to go before it becomes law. Tuesday's committee was the first of three stops in the House.

The bill has not yet been heard by any Senate committee.