Legislation Would Require Schools to Put Wellness Policies in Place and Allow Parent Input

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Supporters say a bill awaiting the governor’s signature will be a great first step in the fight against childhood obesity.

The legislation requires school districts to adopt wellness and physical education policies, and allow parents to provide input.

Those policies may surprise parents who thought their children were getting a lot more physical activity than they actually are.

Kathleen Brennan is a mother of four including seven-year-old Daniel. She’s also a board member of the American Heart Association. Parents will be able to read the school wellness policies and see how much physical activity the kids get or don’t get at school.

“Once they find out, then can talk to the school and ask for more phys ed, and talk to the other parents so it gives them a tool to communicate with their schools.”

The new wellness policies would also have to include classes on healthy eating and exercise.

What the legislation does not include is a requirement that schools include more phys ed. Many schools have actually scaled back their phys ed classes over the years.

Statistics show a third of Florida middle school students and more than half of high schoolers don’t get any PE at all.

Wayne Blanton with the School Boards Association says some schools dropped PE for more FCAT courses, and trying to fit in a new wellness policy could be tough

Blanton says, “We can incorporate it into other courses and everything, so with that flexibility I think we’ll be able to do it and then of course, there’s the debate over whether you should increase phys ed requirements and districts can do this if they want to.”

The Student Health Promotion Act would require all schools to submit wellness policies to the state by September 1, and post them on their district’s website by December 1. The governor has until June 30 to sign or veto the bill.