Should students be able to opt out of P.E. in middle/high school?

It appears that in our middle school kids can pretty much opt out of P.E. by just not choosing it as an elective.

Now they could accidentally get P.E. if all their first options are already filled but there appears to be plenty of other things she could fill in with before getting to P.E.

I’m not sure what happens at the high school level here.

I remember taking P.E. all through middle school and high school (and hating it.) That’s where I learned aerobics. We used to have to design an aerobic routine and then perform it for the teacher. I also remember being told by the male P.E. teacher that I had the worst running form he had ever seen. So that was lovely for an awkward sixth-grader to be told in front of all the other students.  That teacher really knew how to support his student’s self esteem. That experience made me never want to run again and to this day I hate running.  So maybe it’s OK for Rose to skip out on that type of physical education.

She is on the swim team and gets serious exercise in those workouts.

Does your school allow middle school students/high school students to never take P.E.? Do you think that is good? Would you rather them be in another academic elective or do they all need some sort of physical activity during the school day?

67 comments Add your comment

Cheryl Moffitt

September 25th, 2012
1:30 am

They need it then more than ever


September 25th, 2012
1:59 am

Last I knew, the state required 0.5 units (one semester) of P.E. for HS graduation. I’m sure if that’s changed someone will correct me shortly.

In answer to your question, I’d love to see the requirement eliminated. Far too many flashbacks to utterly absurd P.E. classes circa early 80’s.


September 25th, 2012
7:09 am

I would have loved to have not had PE in middle/high school. I mean, don’t they know that people smell after exercising? Yuck!

Having said that, I appreciate the opportunities that PE can give a kid for trying different sports. One would think that, if all else fails, a person could always run since it is a solo activity. Apparently, TWG found someone who could screw that up as well. I’d never run again either.


September 25th, 2012
7:27 am

Another child of the ’80s here who has less than fond memories of middle and high school PE. Thank goodness I only had to take PE in 9th grade and then I was free the rest of high school. I think older kids should be able to opt out. At that age, certainly by high school, kids can go to their parents’ gym, go for a walk or run by themselves, and many do play team or individual sports. I think PE for elementary should stay where it is, but upper grades should have options.


September 25th, 2012
7:30 am

I don’t even understand why this is a question. Not only no, he77 no.

Physical habits are started at a young age. Let them learn activity while their bodies are young and limber, absent of soreness.

Starting to learn to be active when you are an adult is extremely difficult.

Why don’t we take some of that “self esteem” time and use it for PE?


September 25th, 2012
7:32 am

I think they should allow the PE requirement to be met by activities outside of PE class. For example, my son performs in the marching band. They practice on the field for 2 hours a day three days a week, and then perform on Friday. That should satisfy the requirement. My other son is in Civil Air Patrol. They have to pass a physical test once a month and they run, do sit-ups, and pushups every meeting. That should also satisfy the requirement. Neither of them will gain anything from PE…it’s just a waste of time.


September 25th, 2012
7:36 am

” I mean, don’t they know that people smell after exercising? Yuck! ”

I guess they don’t have showers like they did in my day.

soft kids - helio parents

September 25th, 2012
7:39 am

I was treated this way in middle and high school and my child will be treated the same way and it will hurt their feelings and give them low self esteem. Well, maybe if they hadn’t have rec’d that trophy for just being a part of the team they would know they weren’t that great and not expect to be GREAT at everything.
Physical activity at all ages is great and it gives the mind a break. You had a PE teacher tell you that you were awkward. I had a geometry teacher tell me I passed because he was friends with my dad and I would never be able to get it. All kids experience some horrible teacher and they will experience a horrible boss.
Teach you kid to grow up and deal with life. They can’t always avoid the stuff they don’t like or critical people.


September 25th, 2012
7:48 am

Anyone remember having to “dress out” in a PE uniform? Ours were one piece, with blue shorts, and a stripped blue and white top. Our teacher would take them and paint our last names on the bottom of the right leg. We all thought that was cool, but the uniforms sucked. AND you had to stand there and get dressed in front of all your friends. We had lockers in our dressing rooms.

I loved PE, but hated track. We had all kinds of electives for PE. Archery, bowling (which EVERYONE took that class, 2 hours off campus), softball, track, flag football (for the girls), etc.

But then again I grew up in a different world. A world where we WALKED or rode bikes to school, which was 2 miles from our house. Occassionaly we would take the school bus, but walking was so much cooler.

Who Cares?

September 25th, 2012
7:59 am

Seriously? You think kids need less physical activity? Granted, some get enough activity through extra curricular activities, but PE should be part of the mandatory curriculum. Physical capabilities are similar to mental capabilities in that everyone has a different level in which they perform. Also, they can strengthen each by working on each, which will provide a sense of accomplishment. No, life is not fair and every person is not equal in capabilities. We should be equal in opportunities, but earn our place through our accomplishments and efforts. Read the information in this provided link and you’ll see why it is beneficial to retain requirements for PE classes in our schools.


September 25th, 2012
8:00 am

I certainly wish I could have opted out! Those PE classes were some of the worst days of my life! I understand kids need exercise, but teachers need to figure out a way for these classes to not humiliate and pit kids against each other. Maybe they could trade out for a health class of some sort, which is equally important.


September 25th, 2012
8:20 am

I didn’t take PE in high school. I attended a performing arts school and the director of the program got the school system to approve taking dance instead. Honestly, we rarely ever took dance, the two hours a day in choir gave us a chance to rehearse more.

I don’t care at the high school level. There are so many activities a kid could be doing. I was on drill team (a dance team) so I got lots of exercise during practice. My kids don’t really need PE either. My son goes to basketball practice 3 days a week before school starts and games Saturday morning. Plus, he plays hoops outside with his friends on the weekend. My daughter played tennis, so she got her exercise too.


September 25th, 2012
8:21 am

I agree with Tiffany above – health learning classes would probably reap greater benefits as opposed to the typical PE activities (kickball, volleyball, archery, etc.). Not that these are bad activities, and children definitely need physical activity, but a good foundation for what gets and keeps you healthy seems more important than team sports in PE.

Of course I don’t see why the two have to be mutually exclusive – but you have to employ PhysEd majors somewhere ;) (kidding)


September 25th, 2012
8:22 am

PE is a required elective in Cobb. You can take band, Orchestra, or Chorus. Then Health, Technology, and something else plus a certain number (I think it is 4) PE classes.

PE was an elective in HS when I went (Wheeler 84-88). I am not sure if it is now or not. Health was required.

I was healthy and skinny in HS. However not now no matter all the required health, PE classes I had in past.


September 25th, 2012
8:38 am

@ parent, the showers are still there, but with all the coaches being charged with assult and rape the school forbids the use to protect itself and the staff.


September 25th, 2012
8:39 am

I’m not certain many kids get enough PE as it is – It certainly shouldn’t be optional


September 25th, 2012
8:42 am

With all the talk about childhood obesity, how can a parent complain about PE? When I was growing up, PE was mandatory up to 11th grade. As a senior, we could opt out (we all did.). Getting a last-period PE class was considered lucky, because you didn’t have to shower at school and could just go home, or at least not rush to your next class (conversely, first period PE was the PITS).

In 10h grade, PE was one week of physical activity, and one week of drivers ed, alternating throughout the first semester. (We didn’t pay extra, it was just part of the curriculum.) Health classes were interspersed. Honestly, I don’t see the problem with PE being required.

Although, cynically, I really have to wonder just how effective those health classes are these days, except for giving them their ADA cert for drivers ed. The kids sure don’t seem to listen to the dire warnings on drugs, alcohol and pregnancy all that much.


September 25th, 2012
8:55 am

Are you projecting your dislike for running onto Rose? Surely she should be able to decide for herself if she likes it or not?

Sk8ing Momma

September 25th, 2012
9:28 am

PE should be required in MS and HS. It is definitely a pain in the butt to change clothes; but, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, IMO.

Btw, PE, namely swimming, was required when I was in college. My major was in my university’s School of Liberal Arts and all Liberal Arts majors *had* to take swimming in order to graduate. It didn’t matter if one already knew how to swim. Each student was placed in a class based on his ability. Already knowing how to swim, I found the class a major annoyance; hence, I took it during summer school to avoid the inconvenience of having to do it during the regular semesters. In the end, it was no biggie…I lived to tell about it as have thousands of other graduates. A little extra physical activity never killed anyone! We all know kids today can certainly use more exercise and learn new skills.


September 25th, 2012
10:04 am

@ Sk8ing….I took Lifesaving in college to meet my PE requirement (and HPE which was the health class). I loved the class b/c I loved swimming. I was the youngest in the class, and they had us go in for the 25 laps just “swim it” first trial to get the base of who was where. I remember the big guys (the jocks) and non traditional students all going in and burning out, some just flat did not finish others taking 30-40 min to do it.

I had spent 12 of the last 13 summers on swim team. I got in the pool (it was right after the summer I did not do swim team) and just said OK you have to finish. I did all the laps (more than 15 min, but fairly close). I remember putting arm on the deck and just breathing…and those big guys came over and lifted me over the side. I got alot of respect from them. TWG keep Rose in the pool :)


September 25th, 2012
10:08 am

I hated PE in jr high and was lousy at just about every activity we did, but I do think overall it’s a good thing for kids. A lot of kids hated and were bad at math — should they get to skip it? The problem is PE often isn’t taught like other classes. PE teachers should work with kids on their weaknesses and not embarrass them with harsh critiques in front of everyone else (saying a kid has the worst running form ever is no different than telling a kid that they are the worst math student a teacher has ever seen in front of their class). I had asthma and hated running because it triggered attacks. In jr high, the coaches said to toughen up and occasionally let a kid who couldn’t breathe after running a while sit out — how did that promote good health? High school PE was far better. The coach neither made me run during that unit, nor had me sit out. I walked a brisk pace while the class ran laps, didn’t take breaks when they did, and got in 3+ miles a day. There are ways to work with kids who are behind the curve in PE to help them be active and improve their performance, just like there are ways to help kids struggling in academics.

usually lurking

September 25th, 2012
10:11 am

I’d like to see the students be able to opt out if they are in a sport or marching band. Both of mine took the online PE and Health classes, which worked out well overall. Online or summer school is only way to make room in their schedule for the additional elective freshman year (for example, if your HS freshman wants to take band, a foreign language, and social studies).


September 25th, 2012
10:11 am

Don’t worry parents, thanks to the dems your fat kids can suck off your insurance until they reach 26 to cover the insulin and syringes. After that they can leech off of the rest of us.


September 25th, 2012
10:41 am

We had to take PE all through elementary school, middle school and the first year of high school. I’m not particularly athletic, so I HATED it, except for the tumbling, which I actually liked.

Having said that, I think kids NEED the physical activity … but does it always have to be structured and graded? A bigger emphasis for recess in the elementary grades would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. Kids NEED to be able to run around and play and just burn off energy … I just don’t think it always has to be structured, like in PE or in team sports.

Voice of Reason

September 25th, 2012
10:42 am

I am deathly afraid of a world that will be run by adults who were never spanked as kids, had a choice of whether to take P.E. or not, and got trophies just for participating.


September 25th, 2012
11:45 am

Am I the only product of the 70’s and 80’s that was given a trophy for participation? I keep hearing this complaing like it’s a new phenomenon, but I had an enormous collection of trophies in my house from sub .500 rec league teams. I know first hand this has been going on since at least the late 70’s.

Awards were always given for the league champs too, but I never remember a season without some kind of trinket being given at the team party.

TWG, don’t worry about what Mr. Curtis said. I saw him a few months ago and he’s still sporting the same lamb chop / bowl cut combo. You’re in a better place than he :-).

Who Cares?

September 25th, 2012
11:48 am

Voice of Reason, we’re headed that way,…….and the ending won’t be pretty!


September 25th, 2012
11:51 am

No, you’re not, jarvis. I got them in the 80s too. It’s not new.


September 25th, 2012
11:56 am

I actually liked PE. You could easily goof off and get an A. Not surprised Theresa has bad memories. She seems that type.

Voice of Reason

September 25th, 2012
12:01 pm

Just because it’s been done that way for a long time does not mean that it is not still a celebration of mediocrity.

Not everyone gets to be first…….but we sure as hell make our kids believe that……just saying.


September 25th, 2012
12:18 pm

I don’t really care if kids get trophies are not, but I don’t get how giving them for participation equates to everyone gets to be first. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating putting in hard work and being part of a team, and it in no way diminishes the joy and pride of actually being first (winners and star players get bigger trophies, advance to playoffs, etc). Little participation trophies are souvenirs, and I honestly think kids see them that way. They know the difference between participation trophies and MVP, all-star, champion team, etc.


September 25th, 2012
12:28 pm

At my son’s school (APS – Inman Middle) PE is required, but they go 3 days a week one week, and then 2 days a week the next, and it’s the last class they take. Alternating with the elective (band for my son).

If PE is done right it can be a place where people discover they have talent for a sport, such as running or volleyball. I learned I liked both in High School, and tried out for the teams and had a good time in sports I’d never been exposed to before.

Voice of Reason

September 25th, 2012
12:35 pm

I guess it’s fine when they are younger, but I’d say once they reach age 10, they should know that if they want something, they need to earn it.


September 25th, 2012
12:40 pm

PE was required all the way through junior and senior high schools. Every day. Some of it I hated, some of it I loved, but it was all good for me.

As for my kids, they were required to take it half the year in middle school and half of one year in high school. But they were active in other things: band, cheerleading, dance, baseball, tennis. I never worried about lack of exercise and they were all thin-normal sized.

My mom kept my gym suit. My name embroidered on the back and everything. When my kids misbehaved I would wave it at them. Why didn’t the boys have to wear something so creepy?

Perhaps the key is to make kids who don’t participate in active extracurriculars take PE.


September 25th, 2012
12:54 pm

Let’s make PE optional (and take away recess) but mandate the tracking of BMI. That makes perfect sense.

“Concerned about a trend toward less physical education and recess in state schools, he helped to sponsor HB 229, also known as SHAPE, the Student Health and Physical Education Act, which was passed by the Georgia Legislature and signed by the governor in 2009. Schools begin weighing and measuring students this month (Jan 2012). Physical education teachers will ask children to step onto scales and turn around so they don’t see their own weight. Their parents will be given calculated information on BMI and fitness levels to share with their kids. Each district will compile its data into a report that is submitted to the governor.”

I do not want the school tracking my child’s weight or BMI, thankfully, I have one that isn’t required to take PE (HS JR) and the other attends GCA so, we don’t have to participate in this non sense. This information should stay between pediatrician’s and parents and is non of the school or states business.


September 25th, 2012
12:58 pm

Oh, and to be clear, I am against the recent trends to eliminate and/or reduce recess and PE in schools. Too many kids are over weight and so are too many parents/adults. I just don’t think it is the school or states business to track the information.

Look around. Another study to make this determination is hardly necessary.


September 25th, 2012
1:04 pm

@HB, I could not agree more. My kids “Fun Run” at school this year gave out participatin ribbons instead of ribbons for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

The kids know EXACTLY who finished in the top three for each grade level. I might add my 5-year-old was still nearly in tears because he finished outside of the top three. Competition is still very alive and well.

They know who is fastest….who is smartest….who reads the best….who is best looking…..who is likable….who is not

Brains, aptitude, athleticism, and general charisma are still distributed via random selection and are still enviable traits.


September 25th, 2012
1:07 pm

Just because a parent hated PE doesn’t mean a child will and a parent should not project his/her experience on the child. I don’t think children should have the option in middle school and should have to at least take some PE in high school. We had to take 2 years in high school. In my sr. year, our volleyball teacher got a volleyball class scheduled as the last class of the day so we could leave for games without leaving academic classes (everyone but me since I had to take a “real” class 7th period) and we could practice year round. I think all sports that actually competed after school should have done the same to kill a few birds with one stone – sport = PE credit and didn’t interrupt learning during the season.


September 25th, 2012
1:15 pm

jarvis, when my kid’s school had their annual 5K they totally gave out place awards.

No lie, a 4th grader ran that sucker with a 7:30 pace. Future cross country kid!


September 25th, 2012
1:32 pm

No, it is good for them. The list is nearly endless of all the benefits derived from PE courses.


September 25th, 2012
1:52 pm

Back when I was young (dinosaurs still roamed the earth), We had to take two years of PE. I hated it, not because I did not like the excercise, but because we were humilated by the PE teacher if we were not to her/his exacting standards on whatever we were doing in class. I still excercise (swim) every day, but would still hate PE class.


September 25th, 2012
1:53 pm

iRun, my kids’ school keeps flip flopping. They gave participation ribbons a few years ago, then they switched to giving winning ribbons, this year they’re back to participation awards….I’m starting to think they go with whatever is on sale.

mystery poster

September 25th, 2012
2:09 pm

I had to take PE every other day for all four years of HS. I don’t recall any strong feelings about it one way or another, I just did it ’cause we had to. We did a LOT of fun things, though. Archery, softball, gymnastics, floor hockey etc. My children had one semester during their entire 4 years, and I don’t think that they had nearly as much variety as I did.

Physical activity has a great affect on the body, no one denies that, but I appreciate it just as much for the mind. When I feel my brain is stuck, I’ll go for a brisk walk at lunch. It really does help to get those neurons firing again.


September 25th, 2012
2:21 pm

Jarvis, I don’t spank my kids – just had a parent/teacher conference where all the teachers praised how “polite and kind” he was…and how “he really loves school”. My kids choose to take chorus and band instead of TV…and they are thin and healthy. Perhaps because I don’t have TV in my house, they are forced to go outside to find entertainment. My youngest son got trophies for playing recreational baseball, yet he knows he was a really bad baseball player. He’ll be the first to tell you. What he did learn was that he is a really fast runner, and so he joined the running club at school. Really, you need to stop and consider that there are different ways of accomplishing something that will work just as well.


September 25th, 2012
2:24 pm

@SEE, not sure if your last comment was general or directed at me. I agree with you completely.
Folks need to relax. The country isn’t going to hell in hand basket because kids are given participation trophies.

The countries problems are due to people wanting more for less. But THAT is an entirely different topic.


September 25th, 2012
2:29 pm

In Augusta in the 1980’s you had to take band or ROTC (all year) or PE at least one quarter in middle school and high school.


September 25th, 2012
2:36 pm

The middle schools in Hall County require PE (Fitness)to be taken yearly. Not sure of the particulars any more.

@HB – you are right on target with your comment at 10:08!

There are too many kids who just sit around during recess to let that be the sole form of physical activity in elementary school.

I too think that kids who participate in sports should have some leeway. My children played club soccer every year from August to December, club soccer from February to June during kindergarten through sixth grade, and high school soccer from February to May. When they were in 7th and 8th grades, they played club and school soccer at the same time. Those were some fit kids!!

Don Abernethy

September 25th, 2012
2:59 pm

Sure. That would give them time to get two Woppers and an extra large fry.


September 25th, 2012
3:09 pm

Oops, sorry Jarvis. That should have been directed at Voice of Reason.


September 25th, 2012
3:40 pm

I think PE is good in a lot of ways as it gives the students a break in the day. However, all of my kids are involved in extracurricular athletic activities so they are getting a lot of physical exercise outside of school. I think there could be exemptions for those involved in extracurricular athletics.

They also have started running with me on occasion. Basically it is to make sure that Mom keeps the pace up though.

@Jarvis, I had to laugh at your comment on the PE teacher. I was trying to remember the male PE teacher TWG was referring to above. I had forgotten all about the lamp chops. Good to know not much has changed…