California Parent Seeks Help in Rescinding Recess Punishment

A father posted the following comment, in which he states that his daughter is getting a month-long punishment of no recess. If you live in the same district (San Juan Unified Elementary in California), or nearby, and can help in any way, please drop me a line and I’ll put you in contact with this family. If you have ideas, please post a comment.

Our Daughter is Losing a Month of Recess

My daughter came home from a local San Juan Unified Elementary school today very depressed (2/3/09). She had an outside reading assignment that was not completed. The assignment was to read for 30 minutes per day. Her teacher decided to punish her with no recess for a whole month from todays date (kids get 2 per day). My wife and I were not notified of this via phone or in writing. The school policy states a meeting should take place with student/parent and teacher to discuss proper punishment/resolution and get her side of the story. That did not happen. The teacher did not let us know about this rather extreme discipline; we heard this from our daughter. Her original teacher left after a few months due to a family illness. At that time, my daughter was doing very well in class, but not with this new teacher. He admitted to my wife that my daughter was a very good student and really stayed out of trouble, for the most part. So he felt bad that she lost a lot of recess due to the discipline problems he is having since he took over the class. We are frustrated about this and may consider a petition or would like to consider some sort of action to be taken by the district. Please notify us via email if you can help!

48 thoughts on “California Parent Seeks Help in Rescinding Recess Punishment

  1. Michael B. — well, of course your daughter is depressed. I’m getting depressed just reading your story. Losing recess for a month? That is beyond outrageous.

    Have you talked to the teacher? Have you talked to the principal? One thing you might try is the school counselor or psychologist, who ought to understand how terrible this is for the health and well-being of a child. ( I say “ought to”, because sometimes the psychologist thinks her job is to enforce compliance.)

    A very short-term remedy you might consider is giving your daughter a few “mental health” days out of school. It’s applying a band-aid to a bleeding wound, but it’s better than nothing.

    Good luck to you. Trust your instincts about what is best for your daughter. You’ll hear a lot of guff from the school (“None of the other parents have complained!” “It’s all your fault!” “It’s all your daughter’s fault!”), but don’t let them distract you. And please let us know how it’s going.


  2. Her teacher decided to punish her with no recess for a whole month from todays date (kids get 2 per day).


    My first thought was, what did she do, rob a bank? Your daughter is now depressed, heretofore was doing very well in class, and is not a discipline problem. I shudder to think what the real troublemakers are getting.

    The teacher cooks up this extreme measure on his own, does not notify you, and then tells you he feels bad, admitting the class has become something of a discipline challenge since he took over.

    And just when I wanted to be more gracious, open up a dialogue, hear more of what the teachers who post here have to say.

    At worst, this is child abuse. At best we have a teacher who has not done his homework. On child psychology, on teaching methods, on homework research.

    He wants your daughter to read every day. As Alfie Kohn says, if there is a gentle way and a harsh way to get results and the gentle way works just as well, go first for gentle. Always default to gentle.

    What you have here is a very bad substitute teacher. He appears clueless, is obviously basing his teaching methods on how it was done when he was a child, and seems unaware this is a really awful way to handle matters. You have to bypass him, you aren’t going to get anywhere. But he actually apologized? Is it, I’m sorry I have to punish her but I have to, or, gee, I goofed, overstepped my authority? Strange fellow indeed.

    I would think you have a lot of leverage. As difficult as administration can be, the plastic smile and brush off and all, do talk to the principal. This is egregious. I agree with FedUp that many school psychologists are anything but. Sometimes they are the worst when it comes to these compliance issues.

    At the very least, your daughter will associate reading with punishment and she’ll begrudgingly pick up the book to avoid harsh punishment. Hardly the recipe for growing a life long reader and learner.

    When I look back at the freedom and flexibility we had during our homeschool adventure, I just shake my head. The very notion of having to mount a fight over something that should never had occurred in the first place is preposterous.


  3. CA Ed Code section 33350 sets guidelines requiring schools, to the extent that resources are available, to provide recess. Many districts (including my own) consider it a violation of ed code to withhold recess for disciplinary reasons, and are adopting wellness policies prohibiting this.

    I am a teacher, and if I were a parent I’d raise holy hell all the way to the school board, if necessary. This punishment is completely unreasonable for ANY reason.


  4. Thanks, Cheryl. When it comes to recess, people should always check their state’s rules. Here’s Ed.Code 33350:

    33350. The State Department of Education shall do all of the

    (c) Encourage school districts offering instruction in
    kindergarten and any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, to the extent that
    resources are available, to provide quality physical education that
    develops the knowledge, attitudes, skills, behavior, and motivation
    needed to be physically active and fit for life; to provide daily
    recess periods for elementary school pupils, featuring time for
    unstructured but supervised play; to provide extracurricular physical
    activity and fitness programs and physical activity and fitness
    clubs; and to encourage the use of school facilities for physical
    activity and fitness programs offered by the school, public park and
    recreation districts, or community-based organizations outside of
    school hours.


  5. I wouldn’t waste a day. I’d be in there having a meeting with the principal and the teacher. How is staying in for recess helping the child? If she was having behavior issues that might be one thing – but not reading at home results in no recess? That is absolutely bizarre. I would be all over the teacher and principal and make their life as miserable as they’ve made your kid’s life! Sounds like a good time for a break from school. I wouldn’t let someone treat my kid that way.

    Go in there armed with a list of benefits from recess, and a list of reasons why their homework policy is a little too far reaching. If your child doesn’t have time to do the home reading it perhaps is a discussion they might want to have with the parents first, rather than punishing the child. (Not that the discussion would be met with much sympathy if I was the parent…but it is certainly something I’d tell them I’d expect them to do!)

    Grrrrrr……the way school’s treat children sometimes just makes me crazy


  6. We met with the teacher and the principal today. They both said that holding back recess is an acceptable form of punishment. The principal said that he finds it a good disciplinary action from a previous school he worked at as well as this one (Grand Oaks Elementary in San Juan Unified District). The principal did agree with my wife that the punishment was excessive and that we should have been notified of this first. We should have been notified, especially since we have to initial all papers sent home from teachers and signed for etc. So in effect, she is being punished for not finishing her book, which was termed as an incentive program (The Homerun Reading Club). My daugther asked the teacher the day he started her punishment if there was some way to help make up some of the work. The teacher said no. When my wife met with the teacher, she said to him “my daugther is not allowed to miss recess unitl we meet with the principal”. They all met today and the principal now wants to speak with our daughter himself. My daughter was emotionally and physically sick last night. My wife told the principal and the teacher that employees in CA are given an hour lunch break and two ten minute breaks during an 8 hour shift. It should be fair that children get breaks too. The principal replied, those are employees you are talking about and we are talking about students. My wife then replied, I thought we were all talking about human beings.



  7. Michael B writes:

    We met with the teacher and the principal today. They both said that holding back recess is an acceptable form of punishment.


    I gasped. This is a violation of code, if not common sense. But it’s happened to me. I present a reasonable well thought debate and I get nowhere. This is the problem with public school. Getting anyone to listen to you, to really listen, to take your concerns seriously, without the plastic smile and brush off, is like moving mountains.

    Unbelievable. I agree with Cheryl. The things they say and do in public school can make you crazy.


  8. Extracting key comments from Michael B’s post:

    We met with the teacher and the principal today. They both said that holding back recess is an acceptable form of punishment.

    The principal said that he finds it a good disciplinary action from a previous school he worked at

    My wife told the principal and the teacher that employees in CA are given an hour lunch break and two ten minute breaks during an 8 hour shift. It should be fair that children get breaks too. The principal replied, those are employees you are talking about and we are talking about students.


    The consensus from two education staffers directly responsbile for the welfare of your child while she is in their care, the teacher and the princiipal. Both agree denying recess is an acceptable form of punishment.

    The principal, while admitting maybe taking away a whole month is a bit excessive, still backs the teacher. The teacher, who admits this formerly coooperative class now presents with discipline issues. Reminds of that line, “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

    That the principal thinks it’s okay for adults to get breaks but not children reminds me of an answer I once received from a friend. We were discussing homework overload and I asked, don’t we have child labor laws? And she replied, “oh, that only applies if your child gets paid.” Okay. As long as children are not official workers, adults can treat them however they want? After all, homework is not optional.

    I have a policy that if I’m talking to an idiot and the argument is going nowhere, I extricate myself. We’ve all had that, at a party, and some person is postulating something you find so unreasonable, so uneducated, you shrug and realize, it’s not worth arguing it. And you walk away. Unfortunately, the very idiots in this conversation are the ones you leave your child with, so you’re stuck making the point.

    In conclusion, I must come back to a point. That the principal finds denying recess a good disciplinary measure. Even if one agreed that unruly behavior results in recess elimination, your daughter wasn’t unruly! It isn’t discipline your daughter needs. When I taught, I didn’t even deny recess to disruptive kids. But your daughter didn’t read. For whatever reason. How does taking away recess promote more reading?

    Unless the teacher and principal don’t like reading either. They view it perhaps as a chore, a very necessary chore. And what better way to instill reading than to punish for not doing it!


  9. How is this a disciplinary issue exactly? The kid didn’t get through all her reading. Punishing her will just teach her to fake it next time.

    If the principal agrees that the punishment is excessive, how about cutting it back to “time served”?

    Could you get a note from her doctor that her health is suffering from the stress?

    Can you get her out of this teacher’s classroom? Caution: this may be difficult, because then all the parents will want to get their kids out.

    I want to recommend a book: Bad Teachers, by Guy Strickland. His description of how the school system works to protect bad teachers and prevent change is priceless. A big ol’ light bulb went off over my head when I read this:

    “It is not very productive to drive a child to anger or depression, and then blame him for being angry or depressed. But this is what schools do. Bad teachers do this, and then principals back them up.”

    And another favorite quote:

    “Bastions of ignorance aren’t bastions for nothing.”

    Best of luck to you and your family. All of us at stophomework are rooting for you and want the best for your daughter.


  10. Commenting on FedUpMom’s post, above. We really need to be having this dialogue, how principals protect bad teachers. Because it overshadows the good ones. We need to be having this discussion in the larger society and we are not.

    Right now, bad teachers, a la Michelle Rhee, are the ones who can’t bring stubborn test scores up. That is NOT what I am talking about here. A Teacher from the other post, we are in your corner about how corrosive NCLB is and the havoc is has wreaked on your profession. You need to be getting on Susan Ohanian’s web site and sign up for her almost daily list serve.

    No, I’m not talking about raising test scores. When the entire emphasis is not to inspire and teach but to raise test scores, what does that do for the child whose scores are already high?

    I’m talking about teachers who don’t understand children or families, who don’t seem to enjoy the very material they are teaching, punish because it’s all they know, and as an expert on education, a friend, a teacher characterized it to me, are petty dictators. These are the ones we need to be getting rid of, lest they give the entire profession a black eye.


  11. Wow!! I have been out of the public school system too long. This is a shocking way to treat a little girl! What I get from this story is a perception of the pervasive attitude of “Control, control, control those kids … and if they don’t comply, punish!” I still don’t understand what gives schools the right to decide what course of action to pursue, despite overt protests from the child’s parents. Whose kids are they? (BTW – My 7-yr-old son has been out of public schools for exactly 1 month!)


  12. FedUpMom

    My son goes to Voyagers Community School. No homework; no tests; no grades; no failures; an hour for lunch and recess; a walk every morning; science almost every day; and math, reading, writing and art every day. Music when they want it. Also: Robotics, cooking and sewing … He would not take the day off school to watch the inauguration with me because he loves it so much!
    You can check it out at . If you want to email me directly, maybe Sara can give you my email address privately …??? I owe the website an article to bring my story up-to-date … Coming soon 🙂


  13. Wow. A month of no recess all because she didn’t finish some reading?? That is just way out of hand! I’m sorry that confronting the principal didn’t help. 😦 I can’t believe that, a whole month – that just boggles my mind! And your poor little girl, she’s so stressed out, I feel terrible for her. 😦

    When my 3rd grader doesn’t finish her homework, her teacher makes her finish it during recess, which irritates me, but at least she’s not being punished a month when she hasn’t been turning in reading logs!


  14. I don’t even support one recess nixed because of uncompleted work. I know you don’t either, Carolyn. Don’t you think it’s sad when we have to settle for, well, at least it was only one recess, not a month? We don’t put teachers in detention when they didn’t get the work done at school!

    Recess should be one of those non-negotiable basic needs. Children have an unalienable right to play and it should be treated like food and sleep (well, look what happened to sleep). The child needs it, not on the table for discussion.

    And can we just for a moment get away from all the carrots and sticks? I’ve been around long enough to see it didn’t work thirty years ago and it still doesn’t work today. As Alfie Kohn says, let’s stop treating children as if they will never do a worthy thing unless we either dangle a reward or threaten a punishment. Some children (indeed many!) do in fact love to learn and are altruistic.

    Children are hard wired to learn. Until well meaning but clueless adults find all sorts of inventive ways to drum it out of them. And there are credible studies to show that interest in learning takes a dive around the second grade. Just when grades are introduced in many schools. And now, given those great study results, we’ve decided to start introducing grades in kindergarten!

    You do wonder just who is running the insane asylum these days.


  15. Anonymous: We don’t put teachers in detention when they didn’t get the work done at school!


    Lol, I like that idea though! :o)

    You’re right, I don’t like that she misses a recess to finish undone work. She does do her homework, but she may not get a couple problems done. Apparently teachers just can’t bear to live with undone homework, so it “must” be done at recess.

    My oldest (8th grade) loved school through 4th grade, and even though she adored her 5th grade teacher, that is the year when work became utterly insane. She no longer liked school, even if she liked the teacher. Whenever anyone asks her now how is school, she lays her head to the side in a sleeping gesture, saying it’s tiring because she doesn’t get enough sleep. That just shouldn’t be like that!


  16. Michael B,
    I told my husband last night about how they punished your daughter with a month of no recess for not finishing some reading. He was fuming at the idea that a teacher would do that and worse, that a principal would back that up! He said if it happened to our child, that the principal would know before leaving his office that my husband would be willing and would, call in the media on such an absurd, over-the-top punishment and then the school would look terrible. He would also tell our daughter to not stay in class during recess, but to go out and play with her friends and let him deal with the teacher when she disobeys the stupid ‘no recess’ punishment.

    I don’t know how far you feel comfortable with going, but it’s an idea anyway. Or maybe not go all out like that, but perhaps you could appeal to someone above the principal? I just feel terrible for what they’ve done to your daughter, it’s so wrong!


  17. This is outrageous. My children were sometimes denied a recess, but never for an extended period. And parents complain about even a one day punishment. Denying recess begins a downward spiral. Kids need the exercise and sunshine in order to focus on their work. Add to that the social stigma which is only exaccerbated if the child has fewer opportunities for unstructured socialization and you risk creating more problems for the child. My heart goes out to your daughter!

    Find a few comrades and get a wellness group or internet listserve going.


  18. Hi to all and thanks for your support. We had another meeting with the principal (with great resistance from him). My wife reminded him that children have constitutional rights too. Parts of those rights is that children have the right to be heard and parents to be properly notified before any punishment is to take effect. We found the “rights” online and presented it to him via hardcopy. As my wife started reading those rights to him he said where did you get that and then proceeded to snatch the paperwork from her hands. It ticked me off that he was being very aggressive towards my wife. He grabbed the paperwork in such a way as to startle my 7 month pregnant wife. He said he would get back to us later that week and my wife said no, I want an answer today. He resisted on that also and my wife once again said I want an answer today. The meeting ended and we then walked our daughter to class. To our surprise, we had the chance to speak with the teacher. After speaking our mind and helping him make sense of it all, we feel we got some headway. He thought that the teacher next door to him had that same one month policy for no recess. He was trying to follow her lead on that. That teacher next door told him that it is one month, however, she does not really follow through on it. She uses this as a tactic to scare the kids. He apologized and stated he would give our daughter her recesses back. When we got home, we already had a message from the principal. He and the teacher had discussed the matter and came to a conclusion that one month of no recess was excessive and to be stopped immediately. He would notify us next time of any action to be taken against our daughter. The teacher allowed her to double up on the readings to compensate for time lost. We called back ASAP to confirm this. The sad thing is they still believe that taking away recess either one day or more is a good form of punishment. Our conversation with the principal and the teacher helped other kids keep their recess and not lose one month of it. I was shocked that we were the only parents to raise a stink about it.


  19. Michael B wrote:

    We found the “rights” online and presented it to him via hardcopy. As my wife started reading those rights to him he said where did you get that and then proceeded to snatch the paperwork from her hands. It ticked me off that he was being very aggressive towards my wife. He grabbed the paperwork in such a way as to startle my 7 month pregnant wife.


    MIchael, this is starting to sound like theatre of the absurd. Your principal snatches some papers out of your wife’s hand, your child is being denied recess for a month.

    I’m sorry to say it but that’s a Mickey Mouse operation you have over there. I would suggest you leave the school. Can you get a transfer? A place where some real educators are running the show?

    The snatching, startling, and harsh punishment do smack of abuse, I’m afraid. Sorry you have to go through all this. Ensuring your child is getting a decent education in a safe environment shouldn’t be a full time watchdog job for you.


  20. Michael B. — I’m glad you and your wife persisted on this.

    Like you, I am often amazed at what parents will put up with. On the other hand, do you know for a fact that nobody else complained? Don’t take the principal’s word for it. Principals always tell you that you’re the only person who ever complained.

    I agree with “Anonymous” (aka HomeworkBlues?) that this school sounds pretty terrible. I’ve seen mothers treated with contempt before (in fact, I’ve been that mother) but physical aggression from the principal is unusual. And the punitive mindset is over the top. As if “scaring the children” is a reasonable goal! It might be time to start researching the alternatives.

    Anyway, kudos to you and your wife for the advocacy you’ve done so far. (And congrats, by the way!) I hope your daughter is doing well. I found that my daughter’s depression started to lift the minute I made it clear that I was going to bat for her.


  21. Michael B writes; He thought that the teacher next door to him had that same one month policy for no recess. He was trying to follow her lead on that. That teacher next door told him that it is one month, however, she does not really follow through on it. She uses this as a tactic to scare the kids.


    Oh, boy. It’s come to this. Now the definition of a “better” teacher is one who only scares the daylights out of the little kids, but doesn’t follow through.

    Wow, that should instill confidence in the system!

    Michael, kudos for you for holding their feet to the fire.


  22. Michael, good for you and your wife for sticking to your guns and insisting on a resolution that very day! Wow, what a guy that prinicipal is, treating your wife like that! Holy cow, that’s just awful!

    And the sub teacher taking cues from a teacher who tries to scare the kids, just greeeaaat…. sheesh! I’m very glad it is taken care of and your little one can enjoy recess again! I sure never should have had to go that far though to make it happen, that was just crazy!


  23. Hi it’s me again, more issues with the school creeping up big time now. The last two weeks my daughters recesses were taken away. So the teacher is back to his tricks again. Reasons such as my daughter askng a girl who was crying if she was ok to having to use the bathroom during class time. My daughter is usually one to hold her bladder and not ever have to use the bathroom during class, but she is human right and not a machine? Many other dumb reasons I can’t even recall. My wife is now 2 weeks away from birth. All this stress for my family makes me want to sue them. Not sure what to do, but we did put everything in writing to the district last night. Are there any suggestions on legal course of action out there? Should we take her out of the school, she does have a few months left in the 6th grade and likes her friends there…not sure..please help


  24. here is a posting I saw online today.
    March 25, 2008
    Withholding Recess as Punishment
    How many of you have children in schools where recess is withheld as punishment — or as a way to catch up on school- or homework?

    Last week I came across an article written by a superintendent in South Dakota. It was called “Recess Restriction Is a Useful Tool that Shall Remain in the Toolbox.” (I’d send you there, but if you want to see an article that’s more than 7 days old in The Daily Republic, you have to pay for it!) And as you can tell from the title, this guy is in favor of withholding recess when teachers felt it was necessary. He feels it’s one of the few resources teachers have when it comes to managing the children, and he made it clear that he believes it works.

    I could feel my hair get whiter as I read it! It was another one of those times when I wondered why we have so much excellent research if no one is going to pay attention to it — particularly the people who should be paying attention, like educators and educational administrators?!

    The research is quite clear on the benefits of recess. Studies as far back as 1885 and 1901 and up to the present have shown that individuals (but especially children) produce more when their efforts are distributed (breaks are included) than when concentrated (work is conducted in longer periods). Moreover, Dr. Olga Jarrett and her colleagues conducted a study that determined 15 minutes of recess resulted in the children being 5% more on-task and 9% less fidgety, which translated into 20 minutes saved during the day.

    Hello. Is anybody listening?

    Even if we didn’t have a childhood obesity crisis on our hands (and we most certainly do), recess and the outdoor light would be essential to children’s academic success. And since that’s so obviously what matters most in our society, it’s truly unbelievable that this particular research is being ignored — or, at the very least, unheeded.

    And here’s another pertinent bit of information: Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that the same children tend to miss all or part of recess every day. Translation: The threat of missing recess is an ineffective “tool in the toolbox.”

    On Thursday I’ll be interviewing the CEO of the National PTA for Body, Mind and Child. I’ll be talking to her specifically about the PTA’s support of recess and PE and want to explore the issue of what happens when parents and teachers don’t see eye to eye (e.g., when parents want their children to have recess no matter what and teachers disagree). If there are questions you’d like me to ask — or if you just want to contribute your thoughts to this conversation — post your comments here or e-mail me at


  25. The other teacher wrote in how teachers make sure our kids are safe at school. Not so much.

    Poor Dad. I’ll write more next week with some comfort, a virtual hug, and suggestions. Very rushed now.

    I’m sorry you are going through this. Hang in there. The teacher is retaliating which is unacceptable. And people actually wonder why we pull our kids to homeschool them?

    Best of luck on your new family addition. This stress is the last thing you all need. Breath. We don’t want your wife going into labor early…


  26. I could cry reading that piece. Principals and yes, many teachers, feel it’s one of the only ways to keep kids in line. How incredibly sad. Children have a built in hard wired need to play and run, it’s vital, part of their development. And to constantly threaten to withhold it is cruel and abusive.


  27. Dad — just a note of support. I hope you and your family are doing well.

    Here’s a quote from the book I mentioned before, “Bad Teachers”, by Guy Strickland:

    “How much time is left in the year? If it’s only six or eight weeks, and there is an adult at home, they might consider just taking him out of school. If he is in a public school, he can always go back.”

    If I were in your place, I would definitely consider just taking my daughter out of the school. Can she help her mom around the house? As for your daughter’s friends, look for ways she can stay connected to them outside of school hours. My daughter was also concerned about her friends but we made it clear to her that we would help her stay in touch with them, and she has.

    One of the things that makes school so tough for kids is that they have such a limited experience, and the school seems like the whole world to them. If they get stuck with an abusive teacher, they start to think they deserve the abuse. They can’t see a way out.


  28. I agree completely with FedUpMom. Dad, here’s my advice. Please just take it as my opinion, I’m just seconding FedUp’s excellent suggestion.

    I’m trying to remember your daughter’s grade. 6th? If it was 5th, I would tell you between now and mid May, all they will do is prep for the state tests. Heck, they prepped in 6th too, there were plenty of other standardized tests that year. Since that leaves precious little time to actually learn anything in school, they will send it all home to you.

    In effect, you are homeschooling because your daughter must do all her work at home. But unlike homeschooling, you don’t get to call the shots and no homeschooler would begin the academic day at 4pm. Unless they were out on a field trip all day and a course your child is taking has a deadline that evening. And it would not be a daily occurrence.

    Here’s my advice. And yes, I confess, I hope you take it. You don’t need this angst, this anxiety, this stress, this heartache. Your wife is about to give birth, what a happy occasion, don’t let school mar it.

    Pull your daughter out. Lots of homeschoolers run into these emergency situations. You may groan and think, do I have time for this? I work, my wife’s about to go into labor. You will soon discover researching emergency (short term?) homeschooling is easier than sending your daughter to school and putting up with this.

    Immediately find homeschool groups in your area. The state I live in also has a state wide one. I’m on the other coast but I know California has plenty of vibrant homeschool organizations.

    Go to Then search California homeschooling and up will come something. Start from there. When you find your state list, get on and spill out your whole story. You’ll find support, others who’ve been in similar situations. Spell out what you need right away. To quote a well known homeschool pioneer in my area, “there are no educational emergencies.” In other words, don’t get hung up on thinking your daughter will fall behind. As David Elkind says, “education is not a race.”

    So back to this state homeschool group: Mention that you are pulling your daughter out now, you’re about to have a baby, HELP!!!!. You may put her back next year. People will help, you will get many suggestions and practical advice from people who are already doing this.

    So, Dad, it’s April. Maybe you’re about to begin spring break. Perfect! Wonderful transition. You don’t have to tell the school a thing until you know for sure. Do remember, homeschooling is legal in all fifty states. You do not need the principal’s permission to do this. You will inform, not ask.

    If you are in spring break, go have some fun. Don’t think academics now. When school begins again, according to this plan, your daughter will not return. You can email the principal and teacher, letting them know you are pulling your child to homeschool. If they write back, telling you you are making the worst decision of your life, ignore it. School administrators are not familiar with homeschooling and naturally, have a bias. They see homeschooling as a direct threat to them so of course they aren’t going to give you a pat on the back. Don’t worry, you do not need their approval.

    Then file the necessary paperwork with your district. Each jurisdiction, each state, has its own homeschool laws. Mine are a piece of cake and you’ll have plenty of resources to help you with this part. One state organization even has sample letters you can use.

    So what will you do between now and then end of the school year? Ah, the possibilities are limitless. I know your situation is complicated, your wife about to have a baby, you may work full time. Mention this when you post your first entry on the homeschool list. See if you can set up a quick SOS network of people who can take your child on field trips.

    Since your daughter was punished for not reading, she may have a negative attitude towards reading now. Thank you, school! You want to put pleasure back into reading. Many parents have said it took an entire year for their child to get their love of learning back.

    So between now and mid June, your child can read, keep a journal, and go on every field trip you can muster. Look for educational opportunities in every day things, do art, music, nature centers, free outdoor concerts, museums, zoo, library, just to name a few. Your child will have so much fun and will begin to discover that learning does not have to oppressive and punitive.

    I realize once the baby is born, everyone will have limited time. But it’s perfect in another respect. Your daughter will be there to bond with the new baby and to help mom, and you. You will grow closer as a family and your school problems will just melt away.

    Remember this: there are times when it’s easier to homeschool than send a child to school. You can always send her back in September. It’s public school, they have to take her back. I’d consider switching schools, though.

    Good luck. With pulling your daughter and with the new baby.


  29. CA Educational Code

    44807.5. The governing board of a school district may adopt
    reasonable rules and regulations to authorize a teacher to restrict
    for disciplinary purposes the time a pupil under his or her
    supervision is allowed for recess.

    — I read this entire thread……….being in a similiar situation I was disheartened to read this.

    Anyone living in Sacramento Unified District with similiar discipline issues (my child is in K) PLEASE email me.

    My 5 year old has brain tumors (benign) and an appointment to see a child phycologist AND the school continues to call him “obstinant”. They have not even addressed, responded, listened to the fact that we believe he MIGHT have a learning disability (or one related to tumors in his frontal brain area – same area ADHD affects in children). They see his on again off again attitude about doing his work in class as “he is smart and he knows better”. He also RARELY gets a recess anymore, has been seperated from the rest of the class (they all work in groups while he sits alone), and only has a problem day one to three days of the week. I have repeatedly asked them for some kind of documentation, a child phycologist to talk to him…..anything………..I am really disheartened in general about the entire situation. My wife and I both HATED CA public schools……….but we honestly had a VERY open mind and decided to give it a try.

    My fear is that he will be “scared for life” or something……….

    BUT it is legal to take recess away for “disciplinary” reasons I guess………


  30. Today 8/17/2009 my 6 year old son told me that his teacher has again withheld a portion of his recess for using the bathroom during classtime. Now im not a doctor but I would imagine that a 6 year old boy generally has to go to the bathroom a go 10-15 times a day and you can tell when they pee-pee dance. The office was closed when I picked him up but tomorrow you can bet there will be a meeting. (No doubt closed due to labor laws set forth to protect adults) In the school district we are in there were many districts that merged together.(at least 6 that i know of) when this happened to conserve money they increased class size, decreased recess and lunch periods and eliminated a large number of ammeneties.

    The menacing thing to me is that a) there has been a reduction in their recess time from 15 minutes to 10 minutes twice a day on top of the kids losing 10 minutes of lunch time as well, this equates to losing 30 minutes a day!!!! I am frustrated beyong belief it may be a small deal to some however this is huge to me. We are an extremely active family and physical well being is paramount in our “philosophy” if for nothing else our mental health.

    As I said in the begining this is reoccurring I thought we had this handled last year when the same “punishment” was given out for the same offense. Using the restroom during class time. Im not sure if there are rights or laws set forth to protect our children. All that I have been able to find are “guidelines”…..


  31. That’s inhumane…I would be camping in that school if that happened to my child. And losing recess as a punishment! 10 on the livid scale.


  32. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the difficulties teachers and schools face with the amount of discipline issues teachers have to deal with. Compound that problem with students who do not follow directions.

    If parents taught their students to behave in the first place, follow directions, and complete their assignments…recess would not have to be a form of discipline!

    It is silly for a whole month of recess to be taken away…serious! Really! Please!!!!

    In order for student success we know that all must be involved participants and accountable: student, teacher, and parent!


  33. If parents taught their students to behave in the first place, fol low directions, and complete their assignments…recess would not have to be a form of discipline!


    What makes you think we don’t teach manners in our home? Oh, you didn’t say manners, you said behave. Most of us here tell of recess being denied due to unfinished homework, not misbevior. And what we are saying, what I have been saying, is that the homework was too much and often of too little educational value. If more got done at school, we could eliminate this problem altogether.

    Recess should NEVER be used as a discipline measure. When I substituted, I was told which kids should miss recess. Those children were the ones who needed it the most! They were the ones who were lively, active and couldn’t sit still. Deny those kids recess and you are shooting yourself in the foot. Like they are going to sit quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

    A wise well known educator once lead an unforgettable teacher’s training I attended. He said, 90 percent of the time when your kids are acting out, it’s because your lesson has grown boring and irrelevant. Chew on that one for a while before you jump to blame it all on the parents.


  34. Anonymous- Not sure what grade you teach. Again, I think your frustration is misguided. Sure, there are some five, six, and seven year olds who will sit still and listen (your definition of behave) in most classes. Further, some children will follow directions at all times (most probably won’t). The schools never address the WHY of this behaviour. As an adult, I find it difficult to sit still and listen if the subject mattter is presented in a dull manner.
    I went to elementary school in the seventies and to this day remember School House Rock (conjunction junction what’s your function!). It seems as if the presentation of curriculum has moved backwards from the seventies.


  35. i applaud all of you for standing up for the rights of children… it’s a sad day when the goal of education is no longer to raise well rounded and cared for human beings and merely produce data for performance indices, etc..
    dr ratey wrote a book about the value of active play for neuro development… he spoke at the school wellness conference in california…
    we all need to stand up for children… if you have young children, try contacting your local aeyc affiliate (association for the education of young children)… they are usually quite in favor of play and recess and child rights…


  36. I am having the EXACT same problem with my 4th grader’s teacher. If any homework assignments are missed, he loses his morning recess as well as lunch recess until the assignment is finished. His missed assignments were his reading assignments, all other homework was completed. Problem now is that the teacher has added to that and sent home a note stating that he must come in on Friday morning, an hour before school starts, to serve a half hour detention.

    It’s bad enough that I was having a lot of difficulty throughout the first part of the year getting my son to do ANY homework at all. Recently, I had a breakthrough with him and he’s been turning in ALL his assignments, except for the reading. This is a HUGE accomplishment for him and all the “negative” reinforcement is totally counter-productive to his progress.

    You can bet I’ll be in there tomorrow morning wanting to know why my child gets no recess and ALSO has to serve detention. I will also be researching the laws and if I find anything useful I will be sure to post it. I am a paralegal so I know how to research. But it’s bad enough that my son hasn’t been getting his breaks in school and now this teacher wants to “punish” him again for the same thing she’s already taken his recess away for. I don’t think so.


  37. How about the kids do their homework and no discipline needs to be done. Had the reading been completed, no recess would have been taken away, plain and simple. Yes, a loss of a month worth of recesses is way to severe, but most teachers have very few alternatives. Homework is done as practice of what is being taught. We all know that that Micheal Jordan didn’t become a legend by just going to the games, he had to practice. Reading is the most beneficial form of practice. Just do the reading.


  38. With holding recess for not doing homework is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that the parents don’t know what there child is supposed to be doing in school or after school. Not knowing the family it hard to judge exactly why the parents didn’t know that their daughter wasn’t doing her homework. As a teacher I would have called home to talk to the parents early on or talked to them at a conference. As far as withholding recess, it is not a violation of ed code. Read the code carefully. Recess is only mentioned once. And it is mentioned in a list of other activites. Elementary school students have 3 to 4 four recesses a day. The first is before school. The second is in the morning. The third is at lunch time and if there is a fourth it is in the afternoon. Did the teacher take away all these recesses? If not then neither the teacher nor the school is in violation of ed code. Recess is not a right, going to the restroom and getting a drink of water is a right. Eating lunch/breakfast is a right. Some students need to earn their recess time by behaving in class, it is the only way they learn to do their work and not constantly disrupt the class. They are far and few between (I’ve had 2 in about 7 years of teaching) but it does happen. Again, teacher and school are not violating ed code.


  39. It’s easy to armchair quarterback what teachers use as forms of correction. Are there extremes? Absolutely. Should parents stay informed (i.e. nosy) of their children’s activities both in and out of school? Absolutely.

    Nobody likes their children to be punished/corrected/made to serve out consequences. However, unless you provide a valid solution, what would you expect the teachers to do? If a requirement is set forth from teacher to student, there are expectations for completion. Make yourself aware of the expectations of the teacher, as well as keep abreast of your child’s progress on their schoolwork. Don’t misquote Ed Code to make it suit your ire. Find out the policy put forth by the SCHOOL DISTRICT ITSELF when it comes to Ed Code (many districts put their Ed Code available on their websites)….otherwise contact the district office and ask for a copy of their Ed Code.

    Teachers have a lot on their plates these days…and, yes, they DID decide to get into that profession. However, be an ally with the teacher instead of an adversary.


  40. I am a school teacher, 2nd grade, and I don’t believe in punishing my students for their homelife. i.e. parents don’t care or help with their childs academics. I do give “think times” for disruptive or violent behavior, however parents are notified, students must write about changing their behavior, and the punishment fits the crime. As a parent I have a 5th grade son who is being punished “wall time” for not turning in his packet of homework (which has nothing to do with what is being taught or on the state test, just busy work). His mom, also a teacher, and I have been tutoring and preparing him for the science state test which his teacher has not been teaching. We even offered to turn in the science work in place of her “packet”. She told us that she would still give him detention for it. I am so livid I am ready to kick some ass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ed Code is very murky unless your child is an English learner or Special Ed.


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