Using litigation to increase PE policy compliance in California: Impact and unintended consequences

Project Summary: 

The research team is conducting a qualitative study to assess districts' and schools' perceptions of a recent lawsuit against 37 non-PE compliant school districts in California. The team is researching the lawsuit's impact on PE quality and quantity, and potential resulting unintended consequences. The findings should inform future strategies to improve compliance with PE policy and improve student health.


Health: Compliance with minimum PE standards measured via PE quality and quantity

Other: Changes in attitudes and behaviors of school personnel


Qualitative study with matched control school districts utilizing a combination of the constant comparative method (to generate new grounded theories from the data) and a thematic analysis approach to segment, categorize, and link the data based on predetermined theories established using PE interview data from previous studies on policy compliance.


The primary finding of the research project is that accountability for physical education (PE) matters. Interviewees reported that PE minutes increased in schools that were parties to the lawsuit, primarily due to lawsuit settlement requirements that mandated PE minute tracking and reporting, which increased accountability for PE.

For more information read the Policy Brief and Synopsis of Results.

Watch the Webinar:

Principal Investigators: 

Kristine Madsen, MD, MPH

Hannah Thompson, PhD, MPH

Grant Start Date: 
February, 2016
Award Amount & Duration: 

$80,920 and 18 months