California Today: Should the School Day Start Later?
A groggy teenager is an underperforming teenager.
That’s the rationale behind a state bill that would require California’s middle and high schools to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., a policy favored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The measure was crafted by State Senator Anthony Portantino, a Democrat. Asked to explain why it’s needed, he cataloged an array of benefits — including better grades, reduced risk of depression and fewer vehicle accidents — that he said was borne out by research.
“So,” he added, “what is the opposition talking about? They’re not talking about the science or the impact on teens. What they’re talking about is the impact on adults."
The more than three million middle- and high-school students in California now abide by a hodgepodge of start times across communities. The average is 8:07 a.m.
The California School Boards Association, which represents thousands of school board members, has opposed Mr. Portantino’s measure as too rigid for a population so large and diverse.
Republican lawmakers have also resisted the change during debates in the State Senate, where the bill advanced along party lines in May. It’s moving now through the Assembly.
State Senator Jim Nielsen, a Republican from Tehama County, said later start times would cause “tremendous upheaval” for many parents who drop their children off before work.
“I just don’t see it being worth the disruption of the lives of our children and of the parents, particularly, to try to manage those children,” he said.
A pair of adolescent sleep researchers at U.C. Davis, Ian G. Campbell and Irwin Feinberg, has expressed concern that promoters of the later school start movement are overselling it as a panacea for young people’s problems.
Dr. Campbell cited a study that pointed to a simpler and potentially more powerful remedy for flagging sleep among teenagers (not to mention adults).
Researchers found that exposure to artificial light was shifting people’s circadian cycles.
If you want your teenagers to get better sleep, Dr. Campbell said, a good place to start would be making them turn off their phones and tablets at night.