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New Jersey Student Learning Standards

Comprehensive Health and Physical Education

Frequently Asked Questions

New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Frequently Asked Questions: Health and Family Life Education

In order to ensure that all students are able to achieve the health and physical education core standards, the following guidance is provided.

  1. Are all students required to participate in the health and physical education program?

  2. Yes. N.J.S.A. 18A:35-7 requires every pupil, except kindergarten pupils, attending public schools to take such courses. However, the core standards establish requirements for students in grades K-12.

  3. How many minutes per week must students have health and physical education?

  4. N.J.S.A. 18A:35-7&8 requires that students in grades 1-12 receive 150 minutes (or two and one-half hours) of health, safety, and physical education per week, prorated for school holidays. Local school districts decide how many minutes per week are necessary in each area in order to achieve the core standards.

  5. Can recess count towards those minutes?

  6. Schools may be able to use recess to fulfill the 150 minute requirement if the following elements are met:
    • The activities/lessons are taken from the locally developed health and physical education curriculum and are linked to classroom instruction and assessment;
    • The activities/lessons are designed to meet the health and physical education core standards;
    • The activities/lessons are designed, supervised, and assessed by an appropriately certified teacher;
    • The student-teacher ratio is aligned with accepted district policies for instructional programs;
    • All students participate.

  7. Can students be denied access to recess?
  8. If recess is used to fulfill the 150 minutes as required by law, then students cannot be denied access to recess since it is instructional. If recess is used to fulfill the requirement, students should not be permitted to substitute other instructional programs (e.g. music lessons, gifted programs, ESL instruction) for recess.

  9. Can a student with a medical condition be exempted from health and physical education?
  10. No. The law requires that the medical inspector determine the child’s fitness for participation in such courses. However, the law was originally written in 1917 and amended in 1967, before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All students must have meaningful access to curriculum and instruction based on the core standards.

  11. If a student has a medical condition that limits his/her ability to participate in the regular physical education program, what must the school do?
  12. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.1(f) states that physical education services, specially designed if necessary, shall be made available to every student with a disability ages 5 through 21, including those students in separate facilities. Individual student needs should be addressed through the student’s Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan. The child’s program should be modified to reflect activities that the child can participate in, even if some modifications are necessary. Modifications may be similar to those described in the next questions. Additionally, Chapter 9 of the Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Curriculum Framework (1999) provides guidance in this regard.

  13. If a student has a temporary disability (e.g. fractured leg, recent surgery) and cannot participate in the regular physical education program, what should the school do?
  14. First, the school should communicate with the child’s family and attending physician to determine how long the child will need accommodations. Once this is determined, the school has a number of options based on the grade and age of the child.

    In school, the student can:
    • Participate in the regular physical education class with restrictions based on the severity and nature of his/her disability;
    • Participate in an adaptive physical education class that provides individualized instruction based on the type and severity of his/her disability;
    • Substitute health instruction for physical education for that marking period, semester, or school year with the student returning to physical education when medically appropriate; or
    • Substitute a health-related class that meets a number of the core standards and local curricular objectives such as foods and nutrition or parenting and child care.

    Out-of-school the student can:
    • Participate in a physician-ordered program with a licensed physical therapist (e.g. therapeutic exercise programs that improve range of motion or strength); or
    • Complete an approved independent study project in an area related to the physical education course objectives.

    For high school students, alternative programs of study fulfill the health and physical education graduation requirements as part of "Option II". The principal must ensure that the student has met local district curricular objectives and should carefully document the student’s achievement. For elementary students, schools must design programs that address appropriate activity levels and behaviors not only during physical education but during recess, after-school programs, and class trips.

  15. If a student plays on a school athletic team, can he/she be excused from physical education? ursuant to N.J.A.C.6A:8-5.1 adopted in June 2009, district boards of education shall establish a process to approve individualized student learning opportunities that meet or exceed the standards."

  16. If a student participates in athletic activities outside school, can the child be excused from physical education?
  17. The local board of education would have to approve the child’s participation as an alternative means of achieving the core standards. The procedure would be much the same as outlined above.

  18. Can a student be excused from family life and sexuality education?
  19. Yes. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.7, any child whose parent or guardian presents to the school a signed statement that any part of instruction in health, family life education or sex education is in conflict with his conscience or sincerely held moral or religious beliefs shall be excused from that portion of the course.

  20. If a child is excused from instruction under these provisions, how can the child meet the core standards?
  21. The school should provide alternative ways for the child to meet the health and physical education core standards. The child could be assigned to participate in physical education during that time that his/her class is receiving health instruction. The child could be given an alternative health project to complete as a substitute for the family life unit. Parents and teachers should work together to ensure that the student achieves curricular objectives that are not of concern to the parent.

  22. High school students need to complete 3¾ credits of health, physical education, and safety in order to graduate. Over 4 years, that equals 15 credits. Can a student take health and PE 5 days a week for three years to fulfill the requirement?
  23. No. State law and regulations stipulate that students must take 3¾ credits for each year of attendance in order to graduate.

  24. Must students receive a grade in health and physical education?
  25. Yes. N.J.S.A. 18A:35-7 requires that the conduct and attainment of the pupils shall be marked as in other courses or subjects, and the standing of the pupil shall form a part of the requirements for promotion or graduation.

  26. We require students to take three marking periods of physical education and one marking period of health each year. We average the four grades for a final grade for the year. Should we keep the grades separate?
  27. That is a local decision. Some schools keep the grades separate because they require a mid-term or final exam in each of the two areas. Others prefer to average the four grades and record one final grade on the student record.

  28. Must the health and physical education grade be used to calculate class rank and/or grade point average?
  29. That is a local decision.

  30. Who is authorized to teach health and physical education?
    A certified elementary school teacher in grades kindergarten through five can teach any of the NJSLS subjects (including health and physical education). In grades 6-12, teachers must be considered a content specialist and be certified to teach health and physical education. Certified school nurses are permitted to provide classroom health instruction in grades K-12. Teachers who are K-12 certified in health education can only teach health. Similarly, teachers who hold a K-12 physical education license may only teach PE. Dually certified health and physical education teachers are permitted to teach both subjects K-12. For more information go to Professional Licensure and Standards:

  32. Can teachers punish students by withholding physical education?
  33. Local school board policy should not permit a teacher to discipline a student by restricting his/her access to other instructional programs like art, music, or physical education. Such decisions should be subject to administrative review.

  34. Can students be pulled from physical education for music lessons, basic skills, science lab, or gifted programs?
  35. By law, students are required to participate in 150 minutes of health, safety, and physical education per week. If the school’s program exceeds the required number of minutes, the school administration should discuss with both teachers how to accommodate the child’s participation in both programs without penalty to the child. At the high school level, many schools provide four days per week of instruction in health and physical education to accommodate a fifth day for lab sciences.

  36. Can parent volunteers or classroom aides supervise recess?
  37. If non-certified personnel supervise recess, it cannot be considered instructional for the purpose of fulfilling the 150 minute requirement.

  38. When will students be assessed on the health and physical education standards?
  39. No dates have been set for statewide testing in this area.

  40. What is the AIDS Prevention Act and how does it impact family life education?
  41. N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.19-22, the AIDS Prevention Act of 1999, is commonly referred to as the stress abstinence law. The law requires that school-based programs stress that abstinence from sexual activity is the only completely reliable means of eliminating the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and of avoiding pregnancy. The law requires local boards of education to include in its curriculum the reasons, skills, and strategies for remaining or becoming abstinent. It also requires that any instruction on methods of contraception, including the use of condoms, include information on their failure rates in actual use with adolescents. The law also requires that programs and materials stress the importance of avoiding intravenous drug use as a method of HIV prevention.

  42. Does this mean we must implement an abstinence-only program?
  43. No. The law clearly states that schools can discuss contraception and risk reduction as long as abstinence is stressed as the only completely reliable method of prevention. The New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education require students to understand both abstinence and contraception.

  44. Do we have to teach about breast self-examination?
  45. Yes. Enacted in 1999, N.J.S.A. 18A:35-5.4 requires each board of education which operates programs for students in grades 7-12 to offer instruction in breast self-examination as part of the district's implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.

  46. Our school has a separate family life curriculum, a separate HIV/AIDS curriculum, a separate drug and alcohol curriculum, and a separate PE curriculum? Shouldn't we have one comprehensive health and physical education curriculum?
  47. While this is a local decision, the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education are combined and include all of these areas. The standards use "wellness" as the thread that links the two content areas into one cohesive document.