- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Virginia state Senate easily passed bills Tuesday that would require students in kindergarten through fifth grade to exercise an average of at least 20 minutes per day and direct the state Board of Education to develop regulations on the use of isolation and restraint of children in public schools.

State Sen. John Miller, the sponsor of the physical education bill, said this year’s version would not require any money or personnel; such measures have been criticized in past years as unfunded mandates on local school districts.

“This does not require a PE teacher; it doesn’t require a gym or any funding. It just requires an additional time for children to be active,” said Mr. Miller, Newport News Democrat.

He said studies show that physical activity improves classroom behavior, concentration and attention, and that children who are physically active score better on math, reading and writing tests.

Similar bills have advanced in years past: Legislation that would have required 150 minutes per week of physical activity from kids actually cleared the legislature in 2011, but then-Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed it, saying such a measure would constitute an unfunded mandate on local school districts and localities.

In addition to the physical activity bill, the Senate also advanced another education-related measure Tuesday that directs the Board of Education to establish regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint of children in public elementary and secondary schools in Virginia.

The bill’s sponsor — Sen. Barbara A. Favola, Arlington Democrat — acknowledged concerns from administrators and superintendents about training requirements, but said there would be time to add money to the budget, and it would still take the board some time to actually develop the regulations.

“We learned that 32 other states in the country have some kind of statute or regulation on the use of seclusion and restraint, and, interestingly enough, the private schools in Virginia are under [a] regulation regarding seclusion and restraint,” Ms. Favola said, pointing to schools for children with autism or developmental disabilities.

Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr., Goochland Republican, said that when he was a boy, his father talked to him every time before administering punishment, but that’s not always the case when students are isolated without a sufficient understanding of what they have done.

“Boys need to be disciplined well enough that their peers have an equal opportunity to learn, but draconian seclusion and restraint is absolutely untenable if we give a darn about the future of our sons,” Mr. Garrett said.

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