Georgia Legislators Are Considering Making Recess Compulsory

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Lily NordbyWills, who was in fourth grade at the time, spoke to legislators on the significance of recess.

Lily is a freshman in high school five years later, and she is too old to profit from her testimony in the Capitol. However, legislation requiring daily recess scheduling in elementary and middle schools is on its way to the governor’s desk for his approval.

House Bill 1283 received final approval from the state House of Representatives on Monday, the penultimate day of the 2021-2022 parliamentary session, with a 159-6 vote.

“It’s exciting,” Lily, now 15, said of this latest turn in a campaign for classroom breaks that has raged for at least half a decade. “It takes a rare kid to be unhappy about recess.”

Although the House had passed a resolution the previous year in support of greater recess, the bill Lily testified for in the winter of 2017 did not pass.

Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge, attempted again in 2018 and continued to push the next year. When the General Assembly enacted House Bill 83 by large votes in 2019, he was successful.

Douglas, a former Bulldogs football player who became pro and is worried about childhood obesity, lost that time in the end. Governor Brian Kemp vetoed the bill, claiming that the mandate would be too onerous for schools.

Douglas, on the other hand, was not out of the game yet.

He submitted HB 1283 in February, six years after a resolution was enacted and three years after the veto. He said he worked with Kemp’s staff to avert a veto this time on the House floor on Monday.

Unlike the last measure, this one does not prohibit instructors from depriving students of recess as a form of punishment or extra study time. It also leaves out the length of recess, which was set at half an hour every day in the defeated law.

Lily knows the importance of depriving unruly children of recess. However, she was upset that, if the bill passes, instructors would still be able to cancel recess for things like arithmetic drills.

That’s why, all those years ago, she traveled to the Capitol to testify and, with her mother’s aid, helped her Girl Scout troop launch a petition.

Her primary school instructor used to take away recess if students didn’t complete enough multiplication and division questions in a 5-minute challenge, she added.

“I don’t like math to this day,” Lily said.