Oklahoma One of Few States without Physical Education Time Requirement

By Brown, Jennifer L. | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma One of Few States without Physical Education Time Requirement


Brown, Jennifer L., THE JOURNAL RECORD


Two giggling second-graders bounce across the tile floor on one foot, then flop to the ground and make the letter D by twisting their bodies.

This is physical education for elementary schoolers. It's a lot of skipping, bouncing, hula-hooping and bean-bag tossing.

In Oklahoma, the state doesn't require it. It's up to school districts to decide whether students will break from reading, writing and arithmetic to get some exercise.

The state is one of three in the nation that has no requirement about how much time students must spend in gym class. A bill that would have changed that -- as well as restricted students from using vending machines to get soda pop and candy all day -- failed at the Legislature this year.

Oklahoma students must meet national standards listed in the state's Priority Academic Student Skills -- PASS -- that include health and physical education. But school districts determine whether they are meeting the standards.

The majority of districts do offer at least some gym and health classes.

Physical education exists in 98 percent of Oklahoma elementary schools, 85 percent of middle schools and 65 percent of high schools, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Oklahoma students can get physical education waivers if they participate in athletics after school.

"The alignment between healthy kids and better learning needs to be a lot stronger," said Judy Young, director of the association.

"It's not like we're going to do away with math and reading, but we cannot do without some other things that are important."

Oklahoma's guidelines are slightly more developed than in Colorado and South Dakota -- the only states that do not have any kind of mandate for physical education.

Illinois is the only state that requires daily physical education for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Texas reinstated mandatory gym class for elementary students this year, seven years after it was phased out to allow more time for academics.

Elementary schoolers will have to take a minimum of 135 minutes of physical education each week.

A bill by Sen. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City, would have required physical education class at least once a week for elementary and junior high school students in Oklahoma. High school students would have had to take one year of physical education.

Cain's bill passed the Senate, but was not heard in a House education committee. …

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