California’s late start law: Middle and high school students can sleep later when the new school year begins

As Hansika Daggolu’s middle school year begins in the fall, she’ll be watching to see if the first bell later under new California law means fewer classmates paying attention to their desks for a nap. in the afternoon.

RELATED: New California Law Goes into effect July 1

She suspects that the overall mood would also increase if her classmates at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont weren’t so sleepy.

Hansika, 15, said: “I’m really excited and I’m glad this is happening.

Beginning this fall, high schools in the nation’s most populous state cannot begin before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools cannot begin before 8 a.m. under the first law. of the country in 2019 bans earlier opening hours. Similar proposals are before lawmakers in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Advocates say teenagers do better on schoolwork when they are more alert, and predict even broader effects: reductions in teen suicides and car crashes and improved physical and mental health.


“We know that teens are the most sleep-deprived age group, and it’s because of our public policy,” says Joy Wake, who helped lead the efforts of the “Start School Later” group in California. know.

The average start time for high schools nationwide was 8 a.m. in the 2017-18 school year but about 42% started before that, including 10% starting classes by 7:30 a.m., according to the Center National Education Statistics. Middle school start times in 2011-12, the most recent available from NCES, are also similar.

It is too early for teenagers whose bodies have to stay up later than other ages because the sleep hormone melatonin is released later, scientists say. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools begin at 8:30 a.m. or later. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eight hours of sleep per night for young adults ages 13 to 18.

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After finishing eighth grade and remote learning for all ninth graders because of the COVID-19 closure, Hansika said it was difficult to transition from short, less structured days to more challenging courses at a new school that no need to struggle to stay sane. Distance learning allows her to sleep until she logs into school in her gown and takes a nap after class ends around 12:30 p.m. That changed when schools reopened last year. .

“Lack of sleep during certain times of the year is also an issue for me, so a lot of factors come together,” she says. She doesn’t anticipate staying up any longer because of next year’s change.

Opponents of changing start times often present logistical challenges such as changing bus routes and after-school schedules and disrupting family routines built around the schedule. go to school and work now.

As California debated the change, Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares was concerned that it would harm students from working-class families and single-parent households.

“While adjusting to a flexible schedule may be easy enough for some families, in some communities parents who are working just to make ends meet can’t delay starting their day. do their thing,” he wrote in a 2019 opinion piece for the nonprofit Cal Matters.

Wake replied that it’s not possible to start school at a time that suits everyone’s work schedule, “but you can choose a time that doctors consider healthier and safer for middle-aged children.” adulthood.”

Bills related to the start of school have been introduced in at least 22 US states in recent years, according to Start School Later, albeit with limited success.

“Adolescents who don’t get enough sleep face a number of health risks including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking, and using drugs, as well as poor school performance,” according to New Jersey law enacted by the owner. Council president Craig Coughlin in April and Senator Vin Gopal, chair of the Education Committee.

It requires a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later statewide.

The New Jersey School Boards Association opposed the effort in favor of allowing local school districts to set their own schedules.

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