There is no federal requirement for recess as it’s viewed as a state matter. Five states mandate recess, while at least seven states require daily physical activity for elementary schools. In every case, legislators in those states expressed fears over the increasing sedentary lifestyles of children. Georgia has the 18th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17
A strong push for recess is coming from parents, who contend unstructured play is vital to children’s physical and social advancement. Those parents found allies among child development researchers who say recess bolsters social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
Among them is retired Georgia State University professor Olga Jarrett, a longtime advocate for recess who told the Legislature this year that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages recess for middle and high school students, not just elementary pupils.
The campaign for mandatory recess has dragged on for so long that one of the first kids to testify in its favor will start middle school in August. As a second grader, Pierce Mower of Atlanta showed up at a school board meeting to urge daily recess. About to complete fifth grade, Pierce came to the Gold Dome this year to endorse not only mandated recess for elementary school children, but for middle school students, too.
Pierce said some of his classmates did not meet their reading goals and lost recess as a consequence. “They have to sit out the whole recess reading and I don’t think that’s really helpful and no one deserves that,” he said.
In presenting his bill to his colleagues in the Senate in March, Douglas said he made some changes to appease their concerns so there would be “no more heartburn” over his bill.
Douglas might have warded off heartburn in the Senate, but he still ended up with heartache from the governor.