The rally to defend lunch and recess time at the Wednesday Seattle school board meeting was an overwhelming success. A few dozen parents, teachers, and kids rallied and testified with one message: eating and playing–lunch and recess–are human rights.
The school district began the meeting by announcing they would form a task-force that would make a recommendation on lunch and recess times within eighteen months. This absurdly long timeline to grant students their basic rights only inflamed the passions of the protesters.
Families from a diverse geographical representation of Seattle schools presented moving stories and convincing research to make an unassailable case to expand lunch and recess times in the Seattle Public Schools. One parent reveled that an audit conducted by parents in the Lunch and Recess Matter group over the last couple of weeks found some 50 schools in Seattle do not adhere to their own policy requiring a minimum of 20 min of time to eat. Parents announced that at one school, students at the back of the lunch line only had five minuets to scarf down their food before the bell rang. Others connected the loss of recess time to the increase in high-stakes testing. One African immigrant parent gave a first hand account of what it feels like to be starving and told the school board it was unacceptable that his son didn’t receive enough time to eat and is then asked to throw away his food. He told his son that he was not allowed to throw the food away and a teacher would have to do it for him–and demanded that the school district allow his son the time he needed not to waste food. A student from a south end elementary school talked about recess, the wiggles, and how much fun it is to play. Another parent delivered over 1,600 signatures that were collected on the “Save Recess” petition.
This movement is at the very beginning but has already shown great spirit and convincing arguments, including this oped by two of the new parent leaders, Dayna Provitt and Jana Robbins. The Lunch and Recess group has the potential to launch a whole new parent and teacher coalition to transform the schools to make them responsive to the communities they serve.