The recently adopted Physical Education (PE) Motion by the LAUSD Board is a great victory and good first step to getting our youth healthy and in shape. The motion asks the Superintendent to ensure that LAUSD meets the State Dept. of Education mandated physical education requirements, along with other specifics. The motion states that
“The average physical education class size in Los Angeles Unified secondary schools is 48.8 students per instructor, with some classes having as many as eighty students…” (PE Motion, July 2008 )
In many of the schools that I visit regularly through the work of the Healthy School Food Coalition, students get a check mark for putting on their PE uniform and then are sent out to walk around the field. Really strenuous, huh. In many cases the students are not given any instruction, but are reprimanded if they sit. PE needs to be fun and energetic – actually encouraging kids to break a sweat and get their heart rates up. School physical education is a method for students to gain good lifelong healthy habits as well as an energy burst to continue their academic day.
Ironically, many of the sports’ groups that actually provide rigorous physical activities for their students are also low in funds and have resorted to selling junk food to the rest of the school community. How have we come to expect soccer uniforms to be paid for by student athletes selling Snickers? I’ve been told by parents and students (and have witnessed first hand) of PE teachers selling soda, which is prohibited according to the Soda Ban of 2005, and football teams selling Flaming Hot Cheetos with nacho cheese in the bag – I know, I know –Cheetos on steroids!—as well as candy bars and chips during lunch. Junk food sales are so rampant in many of our schools and it’s not limited to PE teachers and sports teams.
My focus in schools has been healthy food and food access, and I’m excited about the PE motion because it will include the other element to living a healthy, disease free life that is critical to our youth’s health and success. Let’s work together to ensure the implementation of the PE Motion and help promote sustainable fundraisers like CSA baskets that honor our Soda Bans and health of our children.
Laura Palomares, Community Organizer