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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Patrick Diegnan that would aid with child development by increasing cognitive skills, and bettering classroom behavior by ensuring all children receive some free play time during the school day cleared the Senate Education Committee today.

The bill, S-1144, would require New Jersey public schools to provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day of recess for children in grades kindergarten through fifth.

“Our students are learning every day for hours at a time, and a break is not only needed but is also beneficial to their learning,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “In fact, pediatricians have said that recess can be just as important as any other class in school, because having that break time in between intense cognitive challenges can help expand a child’s brain and improve their ability to process information. Research has shown how productive a person can be after taking a few minutes to rest, relax and put their mind at ease.”

According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, most school principals say that recess actually enhances the ability of children to learn in the classroom and improves academic achievement. The survey also concluded that nearly all principals surveyed believe that recess has a positive effect on the social development and general well-being of the child.

“Students need time in between their learning to let loose,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “The benefit of a child going out to play has been proven. Moreover, we cannot stop kids from being kids. Recess is the one time a day when they go outside and are able to choose what they do. This is important for children, especially those who are younger and still developing.”

Unfortunately many schools are taking away recess in order to focus on meeting academic standards and improving student test scores, according to Senator Turner. Forty percent of US schools have reduced or eliminated recess, according to Childhood Education, the bimonthly journal of the Association for Childhood Education International, and high-minority, high-poverty and urban schools have seen even greater cuts into the children’s recess time.

The bill does address that a student could be denied recess regarding the findings of a Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) investigation or another violation of the district’s code of student conduct.

The bill cleared the committee 4-0 and will now head to the full Senate for further consideration.

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