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To combat child obesity, California passed a new bill that tightens requirements for gym classes, requiring that any class that counts for physical education credit be taught by teachers with physical education credentials. That has flustered students taking marching band and Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, who will no longer get physical education credit for their classes next year.

Though the bill is already effective, districts like San Diego Unified have thus far been permitted to waive its requirements, giving kids credit for classes that are not, strictly, physical education.

But that waiver may not be extended next year. Students have complained to the San Diego Unified board that if the classes don’t count toward physical education, which is required for graduation, it will be harder to fit them into their schedules and graduate. They also argued that the programs involve a lot of exercise, holding up golden signs that read, “NJROTC = FITNESS.”

“It would be an injustice to not allow this as a PE credit,” said Joaquin Martinez, a parent and senior chief in the Navy, speaking to the school board in late October.

San Diego Unified school board President Katherine Nakamura is championing their cause, arguing that the new rules would decimate school band and JROTC. Although California does have a childhood obesity problem, Nakamura said, “This is the wrong approach. These kids are, in their own way, more physically active.”

“This is everything we want for kids,” she added, pointing to photos of a recent marching band event. “We’ve got parent involvement, we’ve got music, we’ve got physical activity, team orientation and community.”

Superintendent Terry Grier has said that the school district has no power to change the law, but Nakamura might help students and parents organize to lobby lawmakers in Sacramento to allow students physical education credit for the classes.

EMILY ALPERT

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