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The Institute of Medicine and The City Project on Physical Education, Health, and Equal Justice

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The Institute of Medicine has published a major report on requiring physical education and physical activity in school, Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School (2013). The IOM recommendations parallel the results that The City Project has achieved for quality education including physical education in virtually all major respects. The following chart compares the IOM recommendations to The City Project’s results.

Institute of Medicine
Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School (2013)
The City Project
Results, Recommendations, and Publications
1(a). Approach physical activity and physical education based on the whole school environment. The City Project is working with the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the teachers’ union UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles), expert Chad Fenwick, and community allies to enforce physical education requirements in public schools, including the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest in the nation. Dr. Robert Ross, President of The California Endowment, has called this “a best practice example for districts across the state to provide a quality education for the children of California.”The City Project helped raise $27 billion to build and modernize public schools as centers of their communities. Robert García as chair of the Citizens’ School Bond Oversight Committee for LAUSD signed official ballot arguments to raise local, federal, and state funds. The district has built 130 new schools and modernized hundreds more as centers of their communities. Each $50 million created 935 annual jobs, $43 million in wages and $130 million in local business revenue. Hundreds of acres of land were cleaned up. More importantly, the future became brighter for generations of children in Los Angeles.The City Project has helped pass $10 billion in state park bond measures, and create or preserve over 1,000 acres of green space to serve park poor, income poor, communities of color, plus joint use of schools, pools, and parks, and access to public beaches.
1(b). Physical education timeElementary school students should spend an average of 30 minutes per day and middle and high school students an average of 45 minutes per day in physical education class.At least half of physical education class-time should be spent engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The City Project is working with allies to enforce the law requiring 20 minutes average per day of physical education in elementary schools and 40 minutes in middle and high schools. We support national standards to increase physical education time.The California Court of Appeal has ruled that parents and students have the right to seek access to justice through the courts when districts fail to provide physical education. Doe v. Albany School District, 190 Cal.App.4th 668 (2010).MVPA should be increased to at least 50% of physical education class time through teacher training, or revising district policy, Model Content Standards, or state law.
2. Physical activity should be considered in all school policy decisions to improve academic performance, health, and development for all children. Public officials including the federal government, governor, state superintendent of education, state attorney general, school boards, and district superintendents need to send a clear message that physical education is good policy and required by law, and that physical education can be provided within existing budgets. The message sent to parents, children and the public if the law is not enforced is that children and their health don’t matter.
3. The federal government should make physical education a core subject. Federal education law should include quality physical education.
4. Physical education and activity should be monitored in school. Effective monitoring is necessary to ensure that districts comply with physical education requirements. Schools should publish online class schedules to facilitate monitoring. Parents, students, and teachers are in the best position to monitor physical education in the long term, and should be educated, engaged, and empowered to do so. In response to public record requests by The City Project, the California Department of Education now publishes physical education audit records online, promoting transparency and accountability.
5. Teachers should receive training and ongoing professional development in physical education, including K-12 classroom and physical education teachers. Each district should provide teachers with training and professional development on activity-based physical education. School districts should employ an expert physical education advisor, like Chad Fenwick in LAUSD.
6. Education officials should address disparities in physical activity and ensure that all students have equal access to physical education.The IOM report cites social science evidence of disparities based on race, color, national origin, gender, and socioeconomic status. The report does not consider any legal bases for alleviating these disparities. Federal, state, and local school authorities must alleviate disparities in physical education and health through compliance with equal protection laws and principles.Schools must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California Government Code Section 11135, based on race, color, or national origin; and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, based on gender. The LAUSD physical education policy explicitly commits the district to comply with these laws.Elementary school students in districts that did not comply with the minutes requirements were more likely to be Hispanic or black. Schools in compliant districts included fewer low-income students.
Non-governmental organizations should develop and distribute advocacy materials on physical education for key stakeholders. The City Project develops and distributes advocacy materials on physical education for stakeholders.We rely on proven strategies for success: (1) coalition building and community organizing to bring people together based on diverse values; (2) translating research into policy, law, and real change in people’s lives; (3) strategic media campaigns; (4) policy and legal advocacy outside the courts; and (5) access to justice through the courts when necessary within a broader campaign.

The City Project has worked with the Institute of Medicine on Creating Equal Opportunities for a Healthy Weight (2013),, and on Physical Activity as a Civil Rights Issue, published in Institute of Medicine, Legal Strategies in Childhood Obesity Prevention (2011),

Click here for the Institute of Medicine report Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School (2013).

Click here to download the chart comparing the IOM and City Project actions.

City Project Publications on Physical Education, Health, and Equal Protection

The City Project’s key recommendations are summarized above and in the two-page policy brief Physical Education for All California Students (2013),

Mariah Lafleur, Seth Strongin, Brian L. Cole, Sally Lawrence Bullock, Rajni Banthia, Lisa Craypo, Ramya Sivasubramanian, Sarah Samuels, and Robert Garcia, Physical Education and Student Activity: Evaluating Implementation of a New Policy in Los Angeles Public Schools, 45(1) Annals of Behavioral Medicine 122-30 (2012),

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living Research: Do Policies to Improve Physical Education Work? (2013),

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Physical Education Is a Right, Not a Privilege, Winning Strategies in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity: Profiles of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grantees (2011),

Robert Garcia and Chad Fenwick, Social Science, Equal Justice, and Public Health Policy: Lesson from Los Angeles, Journal of Public Health Policy (2009) 30, S26 S32,

Sarah Samuels, Robert Garcia, Seth Strongin, Mariah Lafleur, Brian L. Cole, Kristina Harootun, Sally Lawrence Bullock, Physical Education is a Right: The Los Angeles Unified Schools District Case Study, Policy Report (2011),

The City Project, La Educación Física Es un Derecho: Estudio de Caso del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles, (2012),

Robert Garcia, Physical Activity as a Civil Right, in Institute of Medicine, Legal Strategies in Childhood Obesity Prevention at 46-49 (Lynn Parker et al., eds. 2011),

Robert García, Failure to comply with physical education laws harms fitness, hurts low income, of color students most, The City Project blog,

Robert García, From the Mouths of Babes: School Districts Misuse Food Funds, Fail to Provide Physical Education, KCET Departures (2013),

Physical Education and Green Justice, KCET Departures (2012),

Robert García, Yes on 30, Yes on 38, For the Sake of the Children and Their Education, KCET Departures (2012),

Robert García, Prop 30 people vote to tax themselves for children’s education. The struggle never ends., The City Project blog,

The physical education policy adopted by LAUSD under education and civil rights laws is at

The resolution Physical Education Is a Priority adopted by the LAUSD school board is at

The physical education administrative complaint filed by The City Project with diverse allies is at

City Project Publications on Healthy Parks, School, and Communities