New Physical Education Bill Must Ensure that Youths with Disabilities Are Not Left Out
|Graph representing the level of participation of youths with disabilities in PE class|
Congressman Kind hit the mark. Without high-quality physical education, there is little hope that the escalating rise in obesity among children and adolescents will end anytime soon. Here are some of the key features of the bill:
- Local and state education agencies must report annually to parents and families on the status of their school health and PE programs, including the amount of time students spend in PE classes and whether those classes follow CDC guidelines of an hour a day of daily physical activity.
- The Department of Education will provide state and local education agencies with a list of best practices on innovative PE policies and programs.
- Schools are encouraged to participate in the Healthier US School Challenge, a program that recognizes schools with superior fitness education and nutrition programs.
- More emphasis on research to determine the effect of health and physical education on students' ability to learn, as well as on ways to improve the physical education curricula.
The same day that the bill was passed, Dr. Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, spoke at the Council for Exceptional Children national conference on the importance of education for youths with disabilities. He opened with the following remark: "Over the past 35 years, we've made great strides in delivering on the promise of a free, appropriate public education for children with disabilities....Six million students with disabilities are in school-and millions of them are thriving. Yet unfortunately, many children with disabilities are not getting a world-class education. The nation has made significant progress for students with disabilities-but we have more work to do."
Secretary Duncan's comments have a bit of relevance to physical education-most youths with disabilities are not getting a 'world-class [physical] education [program];' in fact, many are not getting any type of program that has a modicum of 'quality' in it. Ironically, those with the most need are getting the least amount of 'playing' time. My hope for this new bill is that this time around, youths with disabilities will be on the train and will be given equal opportunity for high-quality physical education that has meaning and relevance to their lives.