Santa Clara, CA asked in Education Law for California

Q: Can educators withhold recesses & use exercise as punishment?

My 10 year old was looking for a band aid in the classroom and saw a pencil grip. He took one from his teacher’s cupboard while in her absence. She returned back to school and was furious at him and withheld all his recesses made him do laps and had him clean up garbage around lunch tables without my knowledge. Now his teacher with the support of the Principal wants to also give him in-school suspension for violating ed code section 48900(g).

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, the use of physical exercise as a form of punishment by educators is generally discouraged and, in many cases, considered inappropriate. Withholding recess as a disciplinary action is a contentious issue, with guidelines suggesting that recess should not be withheld for punitive reasons, especially since recess is considered an important part of a student’s physical and social development.

Regarding the use of exercise as punishment, educational guidelines advocate for positive behavioral interventions and supports rather than punitive measures that could negatively impact a student's physical well-being or relationship with physical activity. It's important for disciplinary measures to be constructive and aimed at teaching appropriate behavior, rather than being purely punitive.

If your child has been subjected to these forms of punishment, it would be wise to discuss your concerns with the school administration. It's also beneficial to review the school's policy on discipline to ensure that the actions taken by the teacher and supported by the Principal are in line with district policies and state guidelines.

In the case of an in-school suspension for violating Education Code section 48900(g), which pertains to theft or attempted theft of school property or private property, understanding the specifics of the incident and the district's policy on disciplinary actions is crucial. If you believe the punishment is excessive or not in alignment with the policies, consider seeking legal advice to explore your options for addressing the situation.

Engaging in a dialogue with the school to express your concerns and seeking a resolution that focuses on constructive discipline and the well-being of your child may help in finding a more positive outcome.

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