Law Office of Michelle Ball 44807.5,5 CCR 352,behavior issues,discipline,policy,recess,SST School Recess Restrictions for Discipline- Are These Okay?

School Recess Restrictions for Discipline- Are These Okay?


Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Once in awhile, a parent is surprised when their child tells them they were held in during recess by the teacher, and did not get a break that day.  Unfortunately, this may be partially okay for a teacher to do, depending.  Such restrictions cannot be overused and in fact there are arguments against them entirely.  Our trouble is there are conflicting laws on this issue which create confusion.

I met with a family involved in a discipline dispute with a school district.  During our discussion, it came up that the boy who had gotten into trouble had not had any recesses for a long period of time due to continuing behavior issues.  Although this was not the main focus of our discussion, what the family reported to me was disturbing simply as this was the “new” schedule of this boy, one with NO RECESS.  Additionally, the withholding of his recesses did NOT solve his behavior issues.  This was completely inappropriate and open to challenge.  

Per California Education Code section 44807.5:

The governing board of a school district may adopt reasonable rules and regulations to authorize a teacher to restrict for disciplinary purposes the time a pupil under his or her supervision is allowed for recess.” [emphasis added]

This is the entirety of the statute.  Getting NO recess ever is not reasonable or appropriate.

To add confusion to the matter is Section 352 of the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, which states:

“A pupil shall not be required to remain in school during the intermission at noon, or during any recess.”

This regulation seems clear, but conflicts with the authority given in section 44807.5 to restrict recess.  Both laws seem to work against each other.  It is confusing to say the least.  Parents just need to do the best with what they have.

Many districts have policies on recess and recess restrictions, so parents need to start there.  What do their policies say?  If they say “no recess or lunch restrictions” the argument should be over. 

No kid should be kept in from every recess nor should they be kept in an entire period of lunch.  Doing so can be challenged by bringing up the above regulation disallowing this.  If the District brings up  §44807.5 the argument would then exist that holding children in all recess or all lunch is unreasonable and does not comply with §44807.5.  Youths need to get out of the classroom to have a break, run around, and just interact socially with other kids. 

Additionally, if such restrictions are occurring, the school may effectively be put on notice that they need to take action to address the issues.  A Student Study Team (SST) meeting, behavior assessment, or other actions could be in order.

School is not only about academics, but is also about socialization, exercise, life, and fun.  It should not be such that it becomes a prison where a student never gets let out of the cage. That would hardly be beneficial for anyone.


[published 4/5/11, updated 1/17/20]

1 thought on “School Recess Restrictions for Discipline- Are These Okay?”

  1. Ella L. says:

    Does this statute allow principals to take away the free play time at lunch for an entire school as well? We have had this issue several times at my sons' elementary school. The principal claims all the kids are generally too loud. They have not been able to define what too loud is to the understanding of the kids and they are not accusing the children of misbehaving in any other way. They are not speaking inappropriately or getting up or littering, etc. Once in a while the principal seems to randomly decide it is too loud and has the entire 3rd -5th grade just sit quietly at their lunch tables for the play time of lunch. In addition, the teachers are not instructed to compensate for this time (although some of the good ones do) so many kids do not get anywhere near the required 25 minutes of activity on these days. I was just wondering if there is any legal issue here or just plain bad judgement. Thanks!

    Angry in Woodland Hills

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