Lawmakers reject bill requiring later start time for California middle, high schools

A bill to require middle and high schools across California to start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. failed to win enough support among state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 328 fell short in the state Assembly last week with a vote of 26-30. That means groggy teens looking to get more rest before school will just have to go to bed earlier.capitol building photo

The bill failed even as a growing number of health groups, educators, parents and others are concluding that the school day might start too early for middle and high school students. The current average starting time for middle and high schools in the state is 8:07 a.m.

However, critics said districts themselves should determine what start times work best for their communities rather than having the state set the same rule for everyone.

Pamela Kahn, a registered nurse and the health and wellness coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education, said that it’s important to ensure students get enough sleep because it’s essential to their development, growth and quality of life, regardless of what time the morning bell rings.

“Studies have shown that the average amount of sleep that teenagers get is between 7 and 7 ¼ hours. However, they need between 9 and 9 ½ hours in order to be at their best,” Kahn said. “Lack of sleep may produce disorders in mood, an increase in  risk-taking behaviors, such as drinking, driving fast, drowsy driving, other dangerous activities. An  inadequate amount of sleep also affects teen’s cognitive abilities and academic performance, resulting in lower grades, sleeping in class and increased absences and tardiness.”

Last month, Kahn offered some tips to for parents and students. Here they are again in case you missed them:

  • Avoid oversleeping on weekends. Although catching up on some sleep on the weekends can be helpful, sleeping in until noon on Sunday will make it hard for your teenager to get back on a school schedule that night.
  • Take early afternoon naps. A nap of 15-20 minutes in the early afternoon can be beneficial.
  • Turn off cell phones, televisions, computers and radios. Television viewing, computer-game playing, internet use and other stimulating activities at bedtime will cause problems falling asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol and drugs. All of these cause sleep problems.
  • Don’t eat, drink or exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Don’t leave homework for the last minute. Stick to quiet, calm activities, which will allow falling asleep to be much easier.
  • Create bedtime routines. Doing the same things every night before going to sleep teaches your body the signals that it’s time for bed.
  • Try keeping a diary or to-do list. If you jot notes down before you go to sleep, you’ll be less likely to stay awake worrying or stressing.
  • Speak to your adolescent’s physician if she has difficulties falling asleep, snores or seems excessively sleepy during the day.