Soda ban is fine, lack of physical ed is not
State public schools' soft-drink restrictions go further than a national effort, but physical education requirements fall short.
HAWAII'S current policy curtailing soft-drink sales in public schools precedes an agreement by top beverage companies to remove their sugar-laden drinks from school vending machines and cafeterias nationwide.
Moreover, a new plan the state Board of Education likely will approve would ban all sodas and sports drinks and allow only water, milk products and juice drinks with no less than 50 percent juice.
The beverage rules are aimed at student health, but the effort might be eclipsed by insufficient physical education programs in schools here.
According to a report by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education, Hawaii is among the worst states in meeting physical education needs, primarily because it does not require certified, licensed PE teachers for schools. Perhaps in making its point, the association also chose a Mililani Middle School teacher as its national PE teacher of the year, the first Hawaii winner of the 20-year-old award.
The soft-drink companies -- Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes -- signed on to the voluntary program to offer healthier beverages in schools, where they control more than 90 percent of sales, in the next three years. Hawaii's updated limits could be in place as soon as approved.
While the Department of Education's beverage restrictions help in curbing students' caloric intake, its PE requirements fall short. Children in kindergarten through third grade get only 45 minutes of PE per week, 55 minutes a week in fourth and fifth grade, none in middle school and one credit to graduate from high school.
Part of this is due to pressures for academic achievement in the No Child Left Behind law that keep students at their desks. There isn't enough time in the school day to fit in PE. However, physical fitness, which can contribute to students' aptitude for learning, is essential if children are to move through public schools with healthy minds and bodies.
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