Active kids are healthy kids

Senator Wentworth column                                        Contact: Margaret Patterson


For immediate release/August 30, 2007                                    (210) 826-7800



Active kids are healthy kids



by Jeff Wentworth


State Senator, District 25




            Texas elementary school students are up and running for at least 30 minutes a day as a result of a new law that became effective when school started.


            During this year’s regular legislative session, we passed Senate Bill 530,  which requires students in grades K-5 to participate in a moderate or vigorous daily physical activity for at least 30 minutes throughout the school year.


            Students in grades 6-8 must participate in a daily physical activity for at least 30 minutes for a minimum of four semesters.  The bill, which I co-authored, also mandates school districts to assess annually the physical fitness of students in grades 3-12. 


            In the Legislature’s continuing effort to battle Texas’ childhood obesity epidemic, school cafeterias are serving meals with increased nutritional content.  Legislators are so concerned about both childhood and adult obesity that we created an interagency obesity council and designated the second full week in September as Obesity Awareness Week.


            The interagency obesity council  is comprised of the commissioners of agriculture, education and state health services.  One of its duties will be to monitor nutrition and physical activity in Texas’ public  schools.      


            Senate Bill 530 is just one of many new laws impacting Texas’ more than 4.5 million public school students.  In addition to our concern about overweight students, we are concerned about students who use steroids.


            Because steroid abuse is a rapidly increasing problem in high school that can be extremely harmful to students’ minds and bodies, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 8.  This bill requires random steroid testing of students who participate in University Interscholastic League (UIL) athletics.  About 3 percent of the approximately 740,000 students who participate in UIL athletics will be tested annually. 


            High school athletes who test positive for steroids will face a 30-day suspension from their teams.  Details of the testing program are currently being worked out, but it is expected to begin sometime in November.  The bill also  requires coaches to complete educational programs relating to steroid use. 


            Parents of athletes, band and dance team members who must practice and play in the late summer and early fall Texas heat will be glad that we passed a bill requiring each school district to have at least one Automated External Defibrillator (AED) at each campus and at every UIL athletic competition. 


            AEDs are devices that monitor the heart and shock a patient to restart the heart when electrical activity has stopped.  These devices differ from the defibrillators used by doctors and paramedics in that they can assess a patient’s heartbeat and give instructions if an electric shock is needed.


            By requiring AEDs at every public school campus and requiring that appropriate school district personnel be trained in their use, Senate Bill 7 would ensure that these important lifesaving devices were readily available whenever a sudden cardiac arrest occurs. 


            These and other bills will help improve and protect the lives of Texas’ most important natural resource, our children.