It’s Time To Start School…Later

David Morse, Mirada Staff

California teens could get some extra sleep if a bill proposed by Sen. Anthony Portantino gets passed into law. Senate Bill 328 would require middle and high schools across California to start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

On April 19, this bill was passed by the Education Committee heading to a vote by the full Assembly. If passed it would still have to pass in the Senate and then be signed by the governor.

According to a research and information report written by Portantino’s office, “The vast majority of middle and high schools in California begin at times that are contrary to the sleep-health needs and developmental norms of adolescents.”

This bill’s main supporter is the nonprofit Start School Later, headed by Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D.

Other organizations are fighting for later start times, such as the American Society of Pediatrics whose studies show that less sleep for teens increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cognitive deficits. The American School Health association is also backing the new bill.

These organizations and Portantino blame our early start times on schools trying to cut costs and make busses cost less to function by driving before rush hours.

A report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office shows that only 14 percent of students ride the bus now, therefore making the early startimes obsolete.

In a report by Paul Kelly and Clark Lee of the Education Commission of the States says that “School start times for adolescents in the United States are typically too early to be healthy for this age group. There is significant evidence from the research literature that early starts have serious negative impacts on students. In particular, early education start times in adolescence cause chronic sleep deprivation, which damages both adolescents’ education and health.”

Portatino says that research shows the benefit of his bill.

“If we care about science-based indications as to what is in our children’s best interest, we have information available to us,” he said in a statement. “ It’s now up to us to use it.”

There is some opposition, including the California Teachers Association and California School Boards Association.

Sen. Scott Wilk said in the Education committee hearing that the changing of start times is unnecessary, and that if it was an issue it should be determined by the school districts individually.

“The fact is, we have locally elected school boards those are the people that there are local, and they’re in the best position to make that decision, the best for their constituents,” said Wilk.

If the bill becomes law it would take effect by 2020, but some schools can be given two extra years to adjust. That means that current freshmen would experience the 40 shift in schedule before they graduate.

Whatever happens to the bill, San Juan district high schools will start five minutes later next year, and five minutes a year for several years after that.

The bill has a lot to fight through, but if it is passed it will have a huge impact on our school, and our schedule. The bill is now planned to be reviewed and amended by the senate, then after it is adjusted to fit the desires of the senate it will be voted on, on April 26.