California’s Late Start Act aims to make school less than a yawn

When the junior year at Hansika Dagolu High School begins in the fall, she will see if a later first bell under California’s new law means fewer classmates are upside down at their desks for an afternoon nap.

She suspects that the overall mood will also rise if her classmates from Mission San Jose High School in Fremont are not so sleepy.

“I’m really excited and so happy that this is happening,” said Hansika, 15, who said she would no longer have to get out of bed before 7 a.m. to get to school by 8 a.m.

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

Proponents say teens do better at school when they are more vigilant, and anticipate even broader effects: reduced suicide and car accidents among teens, and improved physical and mental health.


“We know teenagers are the most sleep-deprived age group, and that’s because of our own public policies,” said Joy Wake, who helped lead the Start School Later group in California.

The average start time for high schools in the country is 8 a.m. in 2017-18, but about 42% started before that, including 10% who started classes before 7:30 a.m., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The high school start hours in 2011-12, the most recent available from NCES, were similar.

This is too early for adolescents, whose bodies are set to stand later than at other ages, due to the later release of the sleep hormone melatonin, scientists say. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools and high schools begin at 8:30 a.m. or later. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eight to 10 hours of sleep a night for 13- to 18-year-olds.

After finishing eighth grade and doing the entire ninth grade remotely due to the closure of COVID-19, Hansika said it was hard enough to move from shorter, less structured days to more challenging courses at a new school without also struggling. to stay alert. Distance learning allowed her to sleep until she entered school in her robe and take a nap after school around 12:30 p.m. That changed when schools reopened last year.


“Sleep deprivation was also a problem for me in some parts of the year, so there are a lot of factors coming together,” she said. She does not expect to stay awake later because of the change next year.

Opponents of changing start-ups often pose logistical challenges such as changing bus routes and schedules after school and disrupting family routines built around existing school and work schedules.

As California discussed the change, the head of schools in Orange County, Al Mijares County, worried that it would disproportionately harm students in working-class families and single-parent households.

“While it may be easy enough for some families with flexible schedules to adjust, in some communities parents who work only to make ends meet do not have the luxury of postponing the start of their work day,” he wrote in a 2019 opinion. a piece for the non – profit organization Cal Matters.

Wake responds that it’s impossible to start school at a time that meets everyone’s work schedule, “but you can choose a time that doctors say is healthier and safer for teens.”


Primary school bills have been introduced in at least 22 U.S. states in recent years, according to Start School Later, albeit with limited success.

“Adolescents who do not get enough sleep face several health risks, including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking and using drugs, and poor academic performance,” according to New Jersey legislation introduced by the president in April. at the meeting of Craig Coughlin and Sen. Vin Gopal, chairman of the education commission.

It requires starting hours from 8:30 a.m. or later across the country.

The New Jersey School Board Association has opposed efforts to help local communities set their own schedules.

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California’s Late Start Act aims to make school less than a yawn

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