Aims to Reduce School’s Yawning Factor: Hansika Daggolu will be observing to see if a later first bell under a new California legislation means fewer students are heads-down on their desks for afternoon naps when Hansika Daggolu’s junior high school year begins in the fall.
She believes that if her classmates at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont weren’t quite so sleepy, the atmosphere would improve as a whole.
Hansika, 15, expressed her excitement and happiness at the change, saying she will no longer have to get out of bed before 7 a.m. to make it to school by 8 a.m.
A 2019 first-in-the-nation rule prohibiting earlier start times will prohibit high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools from starting before 8 a.m. as of this autumn. Massachusetts and New Jersey lawmakers are considering similar legislation.
Advocates claim that more attentive kids perform better on academic tasks and anticipate even wider consequences, such as a decline in teen suicides and auto accidents as well as greater physical and emotional health.
The “Start School Later” campaign in California was helped by Joy Wake, who said, “We know that teenagers are the most sleep-deprived age group, and the cause is our public policy.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average start time for high schools across the country was 8 a.m. in 2017–18, although 42 percent of them started earlier, with 10 percent of students starting their first day of classes at 7:30 a.m. The most recent NCES data, from 2011–12, shows that middle school start times were comparable.
According to scientists, that is too early for teenagers whose bodies are programmed to stay up later than at other ages due to a later release of the sleep hormone melatonin. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, middle and high schools should open at 8:30 a.m. or later. For children aged 13 to 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise eight to ten hours of sleep every night.
Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Hansika completed the eighth grade and completed the entirety of the ninth grade online. She claimed that switching from the shorter, less organized days to more difficult courses in a new school was difficult enough without having to fight to remain awake. She was able to take naps after lessons concluded at roughly 12:30 p.m. thanks to remote learning, which also allowed her to sleep until registering for the class in her pajamas. When the schools returned last year, that situation altered.
“There are many elements that come together,” she said. “Being sleep-deprived in different periods of the year was also an issue for me.” She doesn’t intend to stay up any later due to the adjustment in timing next year.
Changes to bus routes, after-school programs, and family routines based on current school and work schedules are common logistical issues raised by opponents of earlier start times.
Al Mijares, the superintendent of schools for Orange County, was concerned that the change would disproportionately harm children from working-class and single-parent families while California considered it.
In a 2019 opinion piece for the group Cal Matters, he stated, “While it may be easy enough for some families with flexible schedules to adjust, in some neighborhoods, parents who are struggling just to make ends meet don’t have the luxury of delaying the start of their workday.”
Wake responds, “You can pick a time that experts believe is better and safer for teenage kids, but you can’t start school at a time that meets everyone’s work schedules.”
According to Start School Later, bills about school start times have been introduced in at least 22 U.S. states in recent years, though with mixed results.
According to legislation in New Jersey introduced in April by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Sen. Vin Gopal, chair of the Education Committee, “Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are faced with several health risks including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance.”