Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer 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.
One Boy’s Disturbing Story: NO Recess
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 the student’s alleged “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.
Needless to say, the withholding of his recesses did NOT solve his behavior issues.
Frequent Behavior Issues Should Be Handled Another Way
Constant use of recess restrictions in school, such that a student never gets breaks are completely inappropriate and open to challenge. If a student has “behavior issues,” there are other appropriate ways to address these, via a Student Study Team, or even via research based behavior supports through a 504 or Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Recess Restrictions Must Not Be Overused
Recess 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.
California Law on Recess Restrictions
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]
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 California regulation is clear, but seems to conflict with Section 44807.5! 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.
What Does the School Policy Say?
Many districts have policies on recess and recess restrictions, so parents need to start there. What do the school policies say? If they say “no recess or lunch restrictions” the argument should be over.
Missing Recesses is Unreasonable
No student should be kept in from every recess nor should they be kept in the entire period of lunch. These recess limitations can be challenged by bringing up the above laws disallowing this inappropriate student punishment.
If a school district argues they are supported by Section 44807.5 the argument could be made that holding students in all recess or all lunch is unreasonable. Students need to get out of the classroom to have a break, run around, and just interact socially with other students.
Parent Complaints Can Be Filed
Additionally, if such restrictions are occurring, parents can file a formal complaint or make a written request for investigation. Sometimes it is only one teacher who is keeping kids in for recess and school administrators may not be aware this is occurring.
School is not only about academics, but is also about socialization, exercise, life, and fun. It should not become a prison where a student never gets let out of their cage. That would hardly be beneficial for any student.
Michelle Ball is a student rights lawyer/attorney who helps families with student problems in schools and college in California, in locations such as Sacramento, Anaheim, Woodland, Marysville, Oroville, San Clemente, Solvang, San Francisco, Los Angeles and wherever schools or colleges function in California.
[originally published 4/5/11]
1 thought on “School Recess Restrictions for Discipline- Are They Legal?”
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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