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Policy Implications: Withholding Recess in Elementary School

Catherine is a senior communications professional helping social change organizations tell their story in powerful ways. She has expertise in public health, environmental stewardship, philanthropy and education. Follow her on Twitter @CatBrozena

There is a strong connection between activity and academic performance. Daily activity is a critical component in addressing the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Yet, for behavioral or academic reasons, a large number of school districts have not crafted strong policies to prevent elementary schools from withholding recess. The topical area is one for review and discussion.

Results of a survey of school districts and their policies, published in the August issue of the School Journal of Health, found that:

  • Nearly 63 percent of school districts had no policy regarding withholding physical activity or using physical activity as punishment.
  • At 28.3 percent of schools, withholding students from recess due to poor behavior was not allowed. Similarly, 26.7 percent of schools reported that withholding recess for completion of schoolwork was not allowed.
  • Strong school district policy was associated with increased odds of not withholding students from recess for poor behavior or completing schoolwork.


The study examined both school and district-level information, using a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey data from Bridging the Gap. Mail-back surveys were conducted during the 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 school years. A total of 1,919 surveys were received. Data on corresponding school district polices was gathered and coded.

Read the article here.


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