Issues, Trends & Laws Affecting Physical Education Activities

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  • 0:03 Physical Education History
  • 1:06 Trends in Physical Education
  • 1:49 Special Needs Students
  • 2:56 Title IX
  • 3:56 Legal Liability
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley has a JD degree and is an attorney. She has taught and written various law courses.

Physical education courses are a fundamental part of our nation's K-12 school programs. P.E. is a progressive field. This lesson discusses the current issues, trends, and laws affecting physical education activities.

Physical Education History

In the old days, elementary school students took assigned places in long, horizontal lines and spread out fingertip to fingertip. They then proceeded through a set routine of calisthenics, such as windmill toe touches, in rhythm to the beat of a teacher's shrill whistle.

Today's physical education, or P.E., is not the same experience. P.E. is the study, use, and appreciation of body movement. These days, this appreciation focuses on health and wellness rather than simply movement. The shift is largely due to three national reports published in the 1990s. 'Healthy People 2000,' 'The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health,' and the CDC's 'Guidelines for School and Community Programs' reported on the physical inactivity, poor diet, and overweight nature of Americans. The overarching advice was to decrease obesity, increase physical activity, and improve the quality of students' diets.

Trends in Physical Education

Current K-12 physical education programs are, therefore, much broader. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), created grade-level benchmarks, standards for national health and fitness that serve as goals. Modern programs teach movement, exercise, athletic skills, sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, nutrition, and other topics promoting the health of both students' minds and bodies. The focus is on promoting better fitness in youth in order to instill an attitude toward lifelong healthy habits.

The new trends, however, are not without certain issues. Let's take a closer look at the issues and laws affecting today's P.E. trends.

Special Needs Students

One issue concerns including special needs students in physical education activities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is the main piece of legislation governing requiring schools to educate special needs students alongside non-disabled students in regular educational environments to the maximum extent appropriate. This means every effort must be made to include special needs students in regular P.E. activities.

The school has a duty to provide extra assistance in P.E. and make a genuine effort to include special needs students. They must use supplementary aids and services whenever appropriate, in order to include all students. Often, these aids and services will be set out in the student's Individualized Education Program, or IEP. An IEP is a legal agreement that sets out the student's special education needs and how the school will meet those needs.

For example, let's say Annie is a student with a hearing impairment. She has an IEP that requires instructors to give her visual cues, rather than simply verbal instructions. Her P.E. instructor will need to develop a system of visual cues to use with Annie.

Title IX

Another issue concerns gender discrimination in physical education. Title IX, a federal law enacted in 1972, prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. This includes most public schools and many private schools.

Title IX affects P.E. programming in many ways. Instructors need to be aware of what is, and is not, permitted under Title IX. Here are some common examples:

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