Irvine Unified and Ocean View School District, which has campuses in Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley, are among 37 districts up and down the state that must show that students are getting required exercise during school time under a tentative court settlement.
The deal resolves a 2013 lawsuit brought by parent Marc Babin and Cal200, an organization he heads that advocates for elementary school physical education, the Los Angeles Times reported in July. The plaintiffs charged that schools, including Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, were ignoring state law that requires physical education.
The tentative agreement goes before a San Francisco County Superior Court judge March 20 for final approval.
Under the California Education Code, schools must offer kindergarten through sixth-grade students 200 minutes of physical education instruction for every 10 days of class, in addition to recess and lunchtime.
Plaintiffs in the suit contended that “physical education is an instructional priority.”
The agreement calls for physical education classes to be offered on a set schedule monitored by school principals, with a report submitted to the district school board each semester.
Ocean View contends it has complied with the law and that the settlement is not an admission of noncompliance, according to Mark Bresee, attorney for the district, which spans parts of Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster and Midway City.
The district will not pay monetary damages, but will pay the plaintiffs’ attorney fees of slightly less than $25,000, Bresee said. He said the expense of trying a case in Northern California drove Ocean View’s decision to settle.
Irvine school district representatives did not return phone calls by press time.
According to court documents, L.A. Unified determined the complaint had merit, but that the “allegations have already been rectified,” the Times reported.
Rising rates of childhood obesity have worried public health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of obese children ages 6 to 11 in the U.S. increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. School plays a critical role in establishing healthy behaviors, like regular exercise, at an early age, according to the CDC.
Annual state fitness tests of fifth-graders in 2013 at Irvine Unified showed that 15% needed improvement in their aerobic capacity and body composition, which is assessed using the body mass index and two other factors.
At Ocean View, 21% percent of fifth-graders needed improvement in aerobic capacity and 16% in body composition, according to 2013 state data.