ST. PAUL, Minn. – On Monday, the Education Policy Committee heard testimony on legislation that would create a more holistic approach to school discipline practices (SF 183). Chief author Senator Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley) spoke alongside other testifiers in support of the bill, which places limits on when and how schools may discipline students by excluding them from scheduled recess time and encourages districts to adopt a growth-oriented approach to students who don’t meet educators’ behavioral expectations.
“SF 183 is really a huge grassroots effort led by families of children with disabilities who were concerned about the practice of withholding recess as a form of punishment,” said Senator Maye Quade. “What we know is that students are more attentive and more productive in classrooms when they receive regular breaks for recess. Recess promotes not only physical health, but social development and cognitive performance… We have brought forth a common-sense provision that recognizes the evolving science of child development, and it’s time our school discipline practices evolve to reflect that new knowledge.”
“I don’t think teachers are trying to be mean, but making us stay inside doesn’t help kids do better,” said Simon Hofer, a Minneapolis fifth grade student who testified about his experiences having recess taken away when his anxiety caused him to feel stressed in class. “Most of us are trying really hard to make good choices, but sometimes we just can’t… Instead, I think teachers should talk to students and ask them what would help them do better next time.”
“Teachers need all the tools in the toolbox to help children meet their developmental goals, and recess is a tool that helps build children’s capacity in and out of the classroom,” said Dr. Heather Von Bank, professor of family consumer science at Minnesota State University, Mankato. “Recess lets children play, and through play, we prioritize relationships over punishment and focus on building connections rather than creating barriers. You all [on the Committee] have been sitting here so politely in your chairs, and I’m sure some of you are wiggling and tapping your toes ready to stand up. Imagine if some of you told you [that] you couldn’t have 20 minutes of recess.”
While most school districts already use non-exclusionary disciplinary practices, SF 183 would create a minimum standard to protect students and their time to learn and grow in a social play environment.
The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.