Is It Legal to Punish Children by Prohibiting Recess?

September 11, 2019
When children are punished and forbidden to go to recess at school, they're deprived of the rights they have in that period of time without activity. How is this type of punishment regulated or limited?

In many schools, if not all of them, it’s common practice to punish children by prohibiting recess or reducing its duration. What’s the reason? Misbehaving, not completing homework, not knowing the lesson, speaking in class, or forgetting a notebook at home.

There are teachers who even take away recess time from students who need to go to the bathroom during class. Recess is a right that all children have and it’s also a necessity from the point of view of their physical and emotional health. Yet, prohibiting recess as a punishment is still recurring.

Up next, we’ll review some facts to understand why children shouldn’t be prohibited from recess time.

Recess: a child’s right

Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Everyone has the right to rest and take periodic vacations.” This, of course, includes children who are also entitled to rest and a reasonable limitation of their study time

For children between the ages of 3 and 12, school lasts approximately 5 hours. There are even some who eat at school or stay longer for extracurricular activities; so their time in school can last up to 9 hours. Without a doubt, it’s a busy day…

Is It Legal to Punish Children by Prohibiting Recess?

During the day, a 30-minute break has been established at mid-morning known as recess. This period of leisure and play is a right that children have. 

This right is reflected in article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It proclaims: “State parties recognize that every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child.”

Punishing children by prohibiting recess is an abuse of power by the teacher or establishment. School recesses aren’t the property of teachers, they’re children’s rights. No internal sanctioning regime of any educational center is above the Constitution or international conventions.

Benefits of recess for children

Recess offers kids many mental, physical, emotional, and social benefits. This period of free play and recreational activities is essential for children’s development and health. A small moment of leisure allows them to develop their social skills, learn to share, communicate, and solve problems. It’s also a time to release tension.

From a strictly academic point of view, recess is very important as well. To learn better, children need a break to process the information after a period of learning. It’s as necessary as a math or language class.

Recess is also crucial to recharge energy and for kids to take part in physical activity. It contributes positively to improving school performance and children’s behavior. Additionally, this time of leisure and disconnection is especially useful for children with behavioral or learning problems; such as those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Is It Legal to Punish Children by Prohibiting Recess?

Why is prohibiting recess wrong?

Recess is a fundamental part of the development of children. It’s an important component of the social interaction that children must have in school. It’s an opportunity to rest from academic requirements and a space for recreation, creative development, participation, and physical activity.

For kids, playing is an essential activity that can’t be banned or dismissed. Schools shouldn’t use recess time as a form of punishment. They have to look for other methods to improve the behavior of student’s.

Parents must demand that their children’s rights be fulfilled and ask the school not to punish them by prohibiting recess. The school must use educational and non-coercive measures to correct possible behavioral problems in children. It’s necessary to look for other types of solutions that don’t include depriving them of their right to rest. 

By taking away recess, children also learn that they must submit to unfair situations without being able to give their opinion about them. They learn that their needs don’t matter and that they can’t change something they don’t consider fair.