According to the New York Times' Christine Hauser and Isabella Kwai, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that would prevent most public middle and high schools from starting class too early:
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.
...California has more than three million public middle and high school students, and about three in four start school before 8:30 a.m., according to a 2011-12 estimate. The average start for those schools in California was 8:07 a.m. at that time, according to an analysis of the bill.
Concerns about sleep deprivation, absences, tardiness and stress influenced the legislation. According to 16-year-old Libby Vastano, news of the bill could not come soon enough given the many consequences of demands placed on students:
“I don’t know many kids that do sleep enough at my high school,” she said. “If you meet someone who gets nine hours, it’s like, ‘Wow.’” Often, she hopes that her first classes in the morning are not the hardest because she still feels groggy.
Experts agree the move has the potential to positively impact millions of young people:
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.
For some, pushing school hours back may seem like a perfect fix, but others point out that doing so just moves back the daily schedule, rather than changing it. Kids and parents will still face monstrous commutes to school, class demands will stay the same and extracurricular activities will just wrap up later in the evening.
In an opinion piece featured on CalMatters.org, Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares argues:
Not only would mandating a later start time across the board not have the desired effect, it would impose a hardship on too many working families. In fact, this bill would disproportionately burden students whose socio-economic status is already a significant educational barrier.
While it may be easy enough for some families with flexible schedules to adjust, in some communities, parents who are working just to make ends meet don’t have the luxury of delaying the start of their workday.
As Mijares points out, not everyone has the ability to adjust their schedules, and the school system should be cognizant of such a reality.