Know Your Rights: Physical Education

You probably know that many students in New York City and other districts around the state lack adequate access to physical education. Our own research in 33 high-needs New York schools showed that almost half of the schools weren’t able to meet the state’s minimum requirements for instructional time in PE, largely because of a lack of enough funding for teachers and appropriate gym space.

phys_ed_imageOur findings were disheartening. We saw a school that had no gym teacher and one that could fit all of its PE equipment into one mesh bag. We visited schools with PE classes serving up to 70 students, and we witnessed students with disabilities doing phys. ed. class in public hallways. We saw high schools with exciting PE facilities like tracks, weight rooms, dance studios, and even swimming pools, but these were all off limits to students because of a lack of staffing.

This sad situation persists in spite of research that connects physical education to a host of improved outcomes for children and youth, including academic outcomes.

What you may not know is that New York State’s constitution requires the state to ensure that all schools have sufficient funding to provide all students a “sound basic education” and this includes sufficient instructional time and course offerings in physical education.

Our new user-friendly handout, Know Your Rights: Physical Education explains the constitutional requirement for phys ed. and details the violations we found in schools. We urge you to check out this handout, as well as our other Know Your Rights handouts, which we have started to release and will continue to publish. We hope this series will empower you – parents, advocates, policymakers, educators, and students – to become better informed about the state’s specific constitutional education obligations to students. We hope you will share it to help others better understand students’ legal rights.

The Campaign is excited to be working with a number advocacy and research groups, including Women’s City Club, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and Phys Ed Plus, to ensure proper access to physical education in New York City. We hope you join in this important conversation.

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