If California can let teenagers sleep, everybody can, damnit

Damnit for emphasis because this issue frustrates me so much.  One of those cases where the science is so clear, but status quo bias, entrenched interests, and plain old “well, we’ve always done it that way” combine to conspire against the obviously far more sensible of not having teenagers wake up absurdly early for high school.  Some forward-thinking school districts around the country have been slowly catching on.  And, now, the whole damn state of California is– hooray!

California students can look forward to extra sleep in the morning once a new law takes effect.

The law, signed on Sunday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, pushes back the start times at most public middle and high schools, making California the first state to order such a shift.

Classes for high schools, including those operated as charter schools, will start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. under the law, and classes for middle schools will start no earlier than 8 a.m.

The law, which came amid rising worries about the effects of sleep deprivation on young people, is intended to improve attendance rates and reduce tardiness, said Anthony J. Portantino, a Democratic state senator who wrote the bill.

“Everybody is looking for a magic bullet with education, one that cuts across all demographics, all ethnicities and that actually has a positive, measurable increase in test scores, attendance and graduation rates without costing money,” he said in a telephone interview. “And this is it.”…

Sleep experts also hailed the move. Dr. Sumit Bhargava, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and specialist in pediatric sleep medicine at Stanford Children’s Health, called the law a “triumph,” noting that adolescents’ brains are still developing and that chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of diseases later in life.

Although it might not seem like much, he said, “the effects of that one hour is something they will be feeling as 40-year-old adults,” adding that students would feel less anxious and less depressed and perform better academically. “When you give them the gift of increased sleep time, it is the biggest bang for buck that you can think about,” he said.

Downsides?  Sure.  But not near enough to outweigh these clear benefits.  So, my hope that California will show clear results soon enough that, just maybe, North Carolina, or at least Wake County, will suck it up and make this same change by the time my 3rd grader heads to high school.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

2 Responses to If California can let teenagers sleep, everybody can, damnit

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    I agree in principle but…. Since in most cases, both parents are working, who is going to take the kids to school and back? Are businesses going to change their working hours to accommodate those families? I hope so but I doubt it. Sounds like mealtimes will be challenging too.
    It’s a big disruption for a lot of families.
    I think another law is needed to go along with this law that businesses have to adjust the schedules of workers with children in school who need transportation or require the schools to transport all students who need such transportation regardless of where they live.

    What are our priorities?

  2. sam says:

    hooray indeed! have you seen whether there is any corresponding change to elementary start times. what i have always heard the big obstacle is to doing this here is the bus schedules.

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