Palo Alto school district named in lawsuit over physical education | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto school district named in lawsuit over physical education

Suit alleges that the Department of Education encouraged districts to falsify documentation related to compliance with state physical-education mandate

The Palo Alto Unified School District was named as a defendant in a lawsuit challenging reduced physical education hours in school districts, according to San Francisco County Superior Court documents.

The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 11 by Marc Babin, a taxpayer and president of Cal200, a California nonprofit advocacy group for the right of children to physical education in state elementary schools.

California Education Code section 51210(g) requires all school districts to include 200 minutes of physical education for every 10 school days from grades 1-6, exclusive of recesses and lunch periods. But the lawsuit claims that because the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act narrowed curriculum to bring all students to the "proficient level" on state tests, school districts have diminished physical activity below the state requirement.

The lawsuit names 90 school districts and elementary schools including Palo Alto Unified School District, Los Altos Elementary School District, Menlo Park City Elementary School District and Mountain View Elementary School District.

The suit asks for a writ of mandamus (which asks a judge to order elected officials to follow the law and perform their duties in a legal manner) and an injunction requiring the school districts to comply with the 200-minute provision and for the court to compel the California Department of Education to produce public records requested under the California Public Records Act. That request alleges that the Department of Education encouraged school districts to falsify documentation related to compliance with the state physical-education mandate.

"Recognition of the importance of physical education to America's children has widespread support. Schools offer a unique platform for children and adolescents to become more healthy and active," the lawsuit states. "Physical education provides an opportunity to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity each day."

One third of U.S. children are overweight or obese and nearly one third are inactive, according to a May 1, 2015, letter to the Senate Committee on Education by the American Heart Association, the American Council on Exercise and the National PTA.

The California Department of Education reviews school district compliance with the physical-education requirement through its Federal Monitoring Program. But the lawsuit claims that the Department of Education advises school districts to submit documentation showing compliance with the physical-education mandate, even if a teacher's schedule shows noncompliance, which has led to widespread fraud.

The lawsuit claims that a department employee sent emails as far back as March 2011 to the Porterville Unified School District advising a district employee to rescreen information sent to the department that showed noncompliance to indicate that a teacher had at least 100 minutes for the week rather than the 70 minutes the district initially submitted. The 100 minutes would put the district in compliance with the 200-minute requirement for every 10 school days.

The pattern of altered information through the same state employee continued through submissions made to him by other school districts, the lawsuit claims.

Palo Alto Unified responded to a Uniform Complaint filed by Cal200 in December 2014 by claiming the complain had merit or some merit, but continued to violate the physical-education requirement, the lawsuit claims.

District officials could not immediately be reached on Thursday for comment.

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8 people like this
Posted by Local parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2015 at 10:47 am

I don't know about other districts but the problem of our district not playing by the rules when it comes to records really, really needs investigation. There are rules, but zero enforcement. That's very disturbing to hear a state office is encouraging districts to alter their info.

Given the mental health priblems, parents should really care about this issue.

Glad to see it's an outside plaintiff so no family will get crushed just for trying to make our district do the right thing by our kids, and no one to make hideously stupid arguments like that it's about "embarrassing" the district..

10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 17, 2015 at 11:30 am

I'm okay with less P.E. in elementary and middle school because there is too much dog feces on the grass. The campuses become off-leash dog parks in the evenings and PAPD doesn't care, nor does PAUSD. Stratford has it right by locking their gates after school hours.

2 people like this
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 17, 2015 at 11:56 am

too bad they dont also sue the palo alto rec department. that is a shambles by anyone's view point. it seems coaches are too young and too close to school age which leads to at times coaches getting too close to the students. fine line between 10th graders and 8th graders some times. rec dept officials have been notified of this in the past and do nothing.

6 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2015 at 12:42 pm

This is just silly. Schools are supposed to teach, not control childhood obesity and insure good physical condition of children. Some amount of activity in school is beneficial to learning to allow kids to work off excess energy and concentrate better, but this is certainly less than what is needed for a child to maintain good physical conditioning. What do these children do outside school hours?Could it be that they should get some activity outside the school? Do they count biking, walking to school, baseball, soccer, karate, etc.

17 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm

@Dan: I grew up in PAUSD in the 70s and Palo Alto has changed. There is just not enough time in the day. We used to have so much free time that we would just hang out all over town, riding our bikes or skateboarding. There was no technology or anything good to watch on TV. There was Rec after school at Palo Verde where we were all outside, playing. There weren't many options for organized sports besides football, baseball, soccer, softball. And the academics were much easier back then, especially in middle school. These days, homework can be 4-5 hours in 7th/8th grades.

Nowadays, with technology and the invention of computers, cell phones, access to Netflix, etc., children don't go outside anymore. P.E. might be their only exercise. And there are other extracurriculars that are not physical.

Plus, the extreme traffic/hurried drivers these days actually makes it dangerous for kids to bike.

And with mortgages as they are, there are more working parents, which can translate to less wholesome, home-cooked meals in favor of packaged meals.

Even adults are more obese than back in the day.

Oh, I fondly remember the more relaxed life where academics and college applications didn't rule our children's lives.

Bottom line is, for both children and adults, there needs to be a conscious effort to get physical exercise into the daily schedule because times have changed.

3 people like this
Posted by SF transplant
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 17, 2015 at 2:07 pm

PAUSD is MUCH better than SFUSD in this regard. SF ESs have NO PE unless the parents can raise money to pay a PE "consultant."

8 people like this
Posted by preacher
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 17, 2015 at 2:25 pm

It is amazing to me that in our community of all these "intellectuals and problem solvers", there are plenty of people who devalue physical fitness. Ancient cultures have known the importance in building a complete human for thousands of years (Greeks), and even us up until post WW2. Also realize that sitting in a desk for 8 hours a day (school and most jobs) and working out for 30-60 minutes is still considered an inactive lifestyle.
@Dan, do you look out your window? How many kids do you see out around town biking walking or playing a game not in a uniform?? And not looking down at their phone?

For the curious folk-

Inactivity and poor diet cause at least 300,000 deaths a year in the United States. Only tobacco use causes more preventable deaths.

Regular exercise resulted in a 30% remission rate for those with depression who didn’t respond to SSRI medication.

Study participants with heart disease who exercised had the same risk of dying as those who took popular drugs such as statins, antiplatelet drugs or ACE Inhibitors.

Research subjects with prediabetes who took the array of common prescription medications had the same mortality risk as those who simply exercised.

Among study subjects who had experienced stroke, those who exercised had a significantly lower mortality risk than those who took medications such as anticoagulants and antiplatelets.

Read more: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by A
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

PE is a incredible waste of time. It should be a time for kids to just go out and have fun!

3 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 17, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Dan & @preacher - There is actually very little data to show a relationship between weight loss and exercise. Weight is primarily connected to diet., and the schools happily serve bagels and pizza.

There are plenty of other physical and mental health benefits to exercise, so 1 day a week of PE in Elementary school seems very low, and obviously way below the state requirement.

15 people like this
Posted by Jordan PE Stinks
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 17, 2015 at 5:40 pm

When my son attended Jordan, the PE sessions were only 45 minutes twice a week. I hope they have improved over that.

The really irksome things were the instructors. One of them would not accept a broken shoulder ( complete with excuses from two doctors and one physical therapist) as an excusable reason for not participating. My son now has one arm shorter than the other.........the other one called him a wimp, In front of his classmates, because he had to use an inhaler before exercise.

PAUSDis very lucky we are not litigious people, unlike many in this district

2 people like this
Posted by Hey!
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 17, 2015 at 6:38 pm


4 people like this
Posted by Hey!
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 17, 2015 at 6:45 pm

@ A
Fun is getting after it like an ABSOLUTE SAVAGE!!! Nobody works harder than Jordan PE KIDS!

4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2015 at 9:19 pm

PE at Jordan and Paly have my very fit boy working out hard! I love it! Go Jordan, Go Paly!!!!

4 people like this
Posted by PE teacher
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 19, 2015 at 2:46 pm

We really need healthy active PE in PAUSD (and all schools) It is well documented by the California Ed Dept, CDC and others ... I know the PAUSD PE teachers care. Some are better than others, but PA (USA) need this class time for health, relaxation and balance in our young peoples' lives. Follow the LAW... 200 minutes per 10 days!

Like this comment
Posted by Tina
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2015 at 9:04 pm

I'm a teacher in Alameda, and we are already dealing with the fallout from the settlement of this case. I have no problem giving my students the required PE minutes. However, I am now required to make up PE class time lost over holidays, the most recent example being Veterans Day. This is ridiculous; kids can run around on their own on days they are off from school. Why should I make up PE minutes lost to national holidays? I am not required to make up math, reading, science or writing time lost to national holidays. Perhaps this is the next moneymaking lawsuit waiting to happen. This is not a time to get on a philosophical high horse about the importance of PE. Of course fitness is important. But the settlement of this lawsuit has really stupid effects. Sometimes as a teacher I feel I'm expected to be the savior of humanity. But at the same time I'm being disrespectfully kicked in the shins by lawyers and legislators essentially uninformed about education who just want money/political feathers for their caps.

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