Parents Rally for Daily PE in Chicago

November 13, 2013

A successful parent rally for PE!

By Rochelle Davis, President + CEO, Healthy Schools Campaign

One of our most successful and important programs is our parent leadership program. Last month, over 200 parents held a rally in support of daily PE. It was an amazing event and a great example of why Healthy Schools Campaign’s parent leadership program has been invaluable in advancing healthy eating and physical activity in the schools.

First, let me provide some context. We are gearing up for a vote at the November Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board meeting for a strong policy that would require daily physical education (PE) for all students. Currently, most CPS elementary schools have one period of PE  per week, and high school students only receive two or three semesters over all four years. We have been working with CPS to develop a comprehensive plan to help schools bring back PE. It includes professional development for PE teachers, a standard curriculum, an appropriate evaluation framework for PE teachers, metrics on the impact of PE on academic achievement, and public accountability. Our partnership with Openlands on Space to Grow: Greening Chicago’s Schoolyards is also part of the effort to ensure that schools have adequate and appropriate outdoor space for PE.

As with our other policy initiatives, successfully implementing change at the school level is an important part of the equation. Our summer training program provided parents with the tools to work with their wellness teams, local school councils and principals to implement 30+20+10, an initiative that brings 30 minutes of PE, 20 minutes of recess and 10 minutes of in-classroom physical activity to every school day. With all of our efforts, we want to demonstrate a strong community, civic support and parent support, and the parent rally was a perfect example.

We had about 250 parents in attendance at the rally. While the majority of them were from the Latino community, there were also African American parents from Bronzeville. They all held up signs calling for daily PE while Univision news anchor Enrique Rodriquez emceed and TV cameras from the local NBC station captured the action. Two members of the Chicago Board of Education, a senior officer from CPS and the head of the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness participated as well. And of course, we started the morning with some physical activity! The main focus of the rally, though, was the presentation of 5,000 petitions to CPS Board Members in support of the PE policy.

Parents gave testimonials around the themes of parents as role model in promoting healthy lifestyles, parents as leaders in bringing change to their schools and parents as advocates for broader policy change. One parent shared his journey of losing 50 pounds, stressing the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to act as a role model for children. Another parent talked about efforts to implement 30+20+10 in her school. And another parent challenged everyone to engage additional parents with the goal of collecting 8,000 more petitions by the November CPS board meeting.

As there has been increased public attention on the issue of childhood obesity, there is a lot of discussion about personal responsibility, norm changing and policy change. It was exciting to see how all of these elements are integrated into our parent empowerment program, which I spoke about at the Institute of Medicine earlier this year. We look forward to seeing continued involvement from our parents in the community, as it is so key to our success at improving health and wellness in schools.