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Turner-Diegnan Bill Requiring School Districts To Provide Daily Recess for Students in Grade Kindergarten to 5 Clears Committee


Trenton- Today, the Senate Education Committee approved legislation, sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Patrick Diegnan Jr., to require public school districts to provide a daily recess period to elementary school students.


“Children are under constant pressure between exams, homework, and the amount of time they should be in the classroom,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “We know that children need, and must have a break such as recess so they can socialize with other children, learn how to communicate and develop their creativity.”


“Free play activity is essential for our young children,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex).  “Our children need to socialize and in today’s world it is seemingly harder and harder for our children to find time just to play and to be kids. The goal of this legislation is to address this.”


The bill, S-847, will require public school districts to provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in grades kindergarten through 5. The recess period would be required to be held outdoors, if feasible. Under the bill, a student could not be denied recess for any reason, other than as a consequence of a violation of the district’s code of student conduct, including a harassment, intimidation, or bullying investigation. Additionally, a school district should avoid denying a student recess more than twice per week. A school district would not be required to provide a recess period on a substantially shortened school day. Recess would not be permitted to be used to meet the current statutory requirements regarding the provision of health, safety, and physical education courses in public schools.


On December 31, 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement highlighting the importance of a recess period for students in grades K to 5. According to the APP, recess is a vital part of children’s development and serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated work in the classroom.The report states that recess provides cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits that may not be appreciated with the decision to diminish it in favor of more time for class work.


In the 2015-16 legislative sessions, a similar bill was passed by both houses on January 7, 2016. Governor Chris Christie pocket vetoed the bill on January 18, 2017. 


The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee with a vote of a 7-0. The bill next goes to the full Senate for further consideration.