California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed Senate Bill 328, which mandates later start times for middle schools and high schools. Supporters of the new California school start time legislation hope that it will promote better sleep habits for adolescents by allowing them more time to rest with a later school day.
The law allows schools a three-year period to modify their schedules and start times to meet the requirements. Once fully implemented, California middle schools will have a start time of 8:00 am and high schools will begin classes no earlier than 8:30 am.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 58% of middle school students and 73% of high school students do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation among adolescents has been recognized as a public health issue. If adolescents aren’t getting the recommended 8-10 hours a night, it can impact their health in more ways than just being tired.
Lack of sleep is linked to increased likelihood of depression and anxiety, poor academic performance, skin issues and poor eating habits. Proponents of the new California law hope that later start times will be more congruent with natural adolescent sleep patterns and give them a better opportunity to get the recommended amount of rest.
Opponents of the law believe that districts should be able to determine their own start times based on what’s best for their communities. The concern is that the later start time will especially affect working families who will not be able to amend their work schedules just because school start times change. Opponents of the law worry that parents will still drop their children off at the same time, but now those students will be left unsupervised, which may lead to other issues.
Similar legislation was rejected last year for the same reason and it was ultimately decided that school times should be left to local government officials and not mandated by the state.
California’s SB 328 makes history as the first law in the nation that mandates school start times. While proponents claim that it is a positive step to ensuring the health and well-being of adolescents, opponents argue that it will leave parents and children with a new set of problems.