Physical education (PE) is mandated in most states, but few studies of PE in private schools exist.
We assessed selected PE policies and practices in private secondary schools (grades 6 to 12) in California using a 15-item questionnaire related to school characteristics and their PE programs.
Responding schools (n = 450; response rate, 33.8%) were from 37 counties. Most were coeducational (91.3%) and had a religious affiliation (83%). Secular schools had more PE lessons, weekly PE min, and smaller class sizes. Most schools met guidelines for class size, but few met national recommendations for weekly PE minutes (13.7%), not permitting substitutions for PE (35.6%), and programs being taught entirely by PE specialists (29.3%).
Private schools, which serve about 5 million US children and adolescents, may be falling short in providing quality PE. School stakeholders should encourage adoption and implementation of policies and practices that abide by professional guidelines and state statutes.