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New California law requires later start times for middle schools, high schools

The law takes effect in 2022
Posted at 10:22 AM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 19:11:01-04

Students in California, rejoice. You'll soon be able to sleep in a little more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Sunday that pushes school start times later. Under the new law, middle schools will start classes at 8 a.m. or after, while high schools will start classes at 8:30 a.m. or after. Optional early classes will still be allowed.

The law applies to public and charter schools, though rural school districts are exempt. The new start times go into effect by July 1, 2022, or when a school's collective bargaining agreement with its employees expires, whichever is later.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino, who authored the bill, cheered the news in a Facebook post on Sunday.

"Our children's health and welfare win!!! Thank you Governor Newsom for signing SB 328 to push high school and middle school start time later in the morning. This will have a tremendous benefit to student health and academic performance."

Doctors say early start times are unhealthy for students

California's move is in line with research and guidance from the nation's top health organizations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association all recommend that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to help ensure that students arrive awake and ready to learn.

But more than four in five public middle and high schools in the US start earlier than that, according to a 2015 CDC study .

Simply telling teens to go to bed earlier isn't ideal either.

Due to shifts in their biological rhythms, adolescents become sleepy later at night during puberty and need to sleep later into the morning, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says. But a combination of poor sleep habits and early school start times means that most young people aren't getting enough sleep.

AASM recommends that children aged 6 to 12 sleep nine to 12 hours a night, while teenagers should get eight to 10 hours of sleep. Only about one in four high school students nationwide got eight or more hours of sleep, according to a 2017 CDC study on youth risk behavior

In a statement, Erin Briscoe-Clarke with Kern High School District said:

“The Kern High School District is currently examining all potential impacts of the recent passage of Senate Bill 328. This includes transportation, food services operations, as well as instructional and co-curricular activities. The District will plan accordingly to continue to meet the needs of our students and staff as we comply with this new law.”

Briscoe also added that bell schedules and school start times in the district are based on bus transportation to and from each school.

Kern County Superintendent of Schools Director, Robert Meszaros, said the institution opposes the passage of SB328:

Mandating that middle and high schools start later only addresses a fraction of a student’s potential sleep deprivation and fails to recognize the negative safety, fiscal, and family impacts of imposing a one‐size‐fits-all approach. These types of decisions should not be made in Sacramento, but rather, should be left to locally-elected school district trustees who are in the best position to understand the specific needs of parents and students they serve.

Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep is associated with problems in attention, behavior and learning, AASM says. Adolescents who don't sleep enough are at increased risk of car accidents, obesity, diabetes and hypertension. They're also more likely to engage in self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts and attempts.