Changing Times For Better Schools

Members of Start School Later will meet with Congressman Mike Honda's staff this week in Washington DC to discuss a national petition for safe and healthy school start times.

I’m happy to be the newest Los Gatos Patch blogger and I'm writing today about a national issue that I'm very passionate about – early high school start times.

As a health science librarian and concerned mom I am well aware of the negative consequences of early start times. I’ve spent countless hours reading the research literature on early start times and sleep loss in adolescents – it’s overwhelming. Unfortunately, I also see my 16-year-old son struggle with his 7:10 a.m. start time on a daily basis. Hopefully, this story will help raise awareness of this issue among members of your community.

On Wednesday, May 23 Congressman Mike Honda’s Einstein Educator Distinguished Fellow, Lynn Hommeyer will meet with members of Start School Later to discuss their ongoing petition for safe and healthy school start times. So far, the petition has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures from concerned citizens who recognize the impact of unhealthy start times on the nation’s children. In the past, Congressman Honda has been an advocate for later school start times and co-sponsored Representative Zoe Lofgren’s House Concurrent Resolutions on this issue in 2007 and 2009.

The meeting will take place in Washington DC.

Start School Later is a grassroots coalition that is working to raise national awareness of the health, safety, and academic consequences of early school start times. Start School Later currently has advisory board members from California and has been active in working for reasonable start times in several states. Most recently, the group helped thwart efforts to implement early start times in Seattle.

In the United States, high schools commonly start in the 7 a.m. hour, with bus runs starting considerably earlier. This makes it virtually impossible for many adolescents to get the requisite hours of sleep their growing brains and bodies need. Research has shown that early high school start times are associated with sleep deprivation - this realization is growing among parents, health professionals, and educators who now recognize that sleep deprivation among adolescents is epidemic in our country.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey quantifies the extent of the problem and estimates that almost 70 percent of high school students are not getting the recommended hours of sleep on school nights.

The consequences of insufficient sleep in adolescents are well documented in the research literature and can be profound. They include pathological levels of sleepiness, cognitive impairment, memory and learning issues, increased risk for car accidents, and a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. A desire to bring these issues into the national consciousness was the impetus behind Start School Later and is discussed in a recent Education Week article by co-founder Dr. Terra Ziporyn Snider.

As one California petition signer sums it up: “I am a teacher of young children. I want to see them thrive when they reach high school and have been hearing about the problems with early school times for years. If we really care about their education, this needs to be taken into account!”

For more information about Start School Later please visit: http://www.startschoollater.net/

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. June 07, 2012 at 12:10 AM
We'll be meeting with Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-16) tomorrow (6/7) to present our petition (tinyurl.com/82leprp). Representative Lofgren has championed later school start times in the US Congress since 1998, and we hope to discuss how the growing national coalition can help move this issue forward. For more information, see http://www.startschoollater.net/.


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