Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution file photo
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution file photo

Georgia senators approve school recess bill

It took a year, but a bill that sort of mandates the scheduling of recess in schools has finally passed the Georgia Senate.

House Bill 273, introduced last year by Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, a retired NFL player and former University of Georgia linebacker, on its face requires elementary schools to schedule daily recess. It also nominally requires school districts to establish policies that say recess cannot be withheld as punishment in elementary school and that say explicitly whether recess is allowed or prohibited in middle school.

VIDEO: Previous coverage on this issue

The bill that would require school districts to allow those children recess time

“Recess is an incredible part of our children’s education,” said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chicamauga, who presented Douglas’ bill on the Senate floor Thursday, with a deft dose of self-deprecation. He pointed to his stout frame and said, “If they don’t have recess, they may look like this later on.”

The bill then passed unanimously by a vote of 50-0.

During hearings last year, before the House passed the bill, experts and parents said recess is crucial for both physical and mental wellness, even improving academic outcomes. There was some pushback from advocates for traditional schools that are already stressed by a mountain of mandates and were wondering where they’d find the time to ensure recess.

The bill was amended so that it’s not really a mandate. Schools can skip scheduled recess on days when physical education occurs, during foul weather (if there’s no indoor space available) and during emergencies. The duration also isn’t mandated, though 30 minutes per day is encouraged.

The biggest loophole, though, says the bill is not to be construed as a protection of physical health and safety, which means school districts that have signed “flexibility” contracts with the state can waive the bill’s requirements. All but two of Georgia’s 180 districts -- Buford and Webster County -- have signed such contracts.

Because the bill was amended by the Senate, it must now return to the House for passage on the floor before it can be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

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The AJC's Ty Tagami keeps you updated on the latest happenings in K-12 education issues affecting Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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