Get Healthy Utah is concerned over the Utah School Board of Education 2017 decision to eliminate the requirement for health, PE, and art in 7th and 8th grades. The research is clear. Health, physical education, and physical activity benefit students. In fact, research has shown positive relationships between physical activity and academic achievement, test scores, attention, concentration, on-task behavior, lifetime healthy habits, reduced behavioral problems, and reduced high-risk behaviors.
As the rates of obesity and diabetes continue to rise, it is short-sided to reduce access to physical activity for children in Utah. Children need 60 minutes of physical activity each day. PE in school helps students reach this goal. Health and PE in school can support the work that parents do at home by teaching and reinforcing healthy behaviors.
Research shows that health education most benefits students before the onset of risky behaviors. This makes 7th and 8th grades an ideal time for Utah children to participate in health classes whose curriculum is designed to address risk-reducing behaviors, developing positive relationships with others, and understanding the mental, emotional, social, and physical changes that occur throughout the lifecycle. As we continue to grapple with the high rate of youth suicide in Utah, we should not remove the classes that are most suited to address this issue. With this requirement change, students now only have one semester to learn this vital information.
According to the Board’s own website, “Health education, integral to the success of students in Utah’s educational setting, provides opportunities for students to acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for life-long, health-enhancing behaviors. Schools can better achieve their basic educational mission if students are healthy and fit physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.”
The recent requirement change sends the message that health, PE, and arts education are not important for middle schoolers. We hope that the Board will reconsider their decision and place a priority on the health and well-being of Utah children.
Submitted for public comment on September 26, 2017.