California teenagers can sleep in a bit longer on school days starting this fall. That’s when a 2019 state law kicks in that restricts high school start times to 8:30 a.m. and middle schools to 8 a.m.
The nation’s high schools had an average start time of 8 a.m. in 2017-18, but about 42% started before then, including 10% that started classes before 7:30 a.m., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study said classes in 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools in the U.S. began before 8:30 a.m.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools begin at 8:30 a.m. or later. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 8-10 hours of sleep per night for 13- to 18-year-olds.
Proponents of later start times say teens do better on schoolwork when they’re more alert. They also predict broader benefits such as fewer suicides and teen car accidents and improved physical and mental health.
“We know that teenagers are the most sleep-deprived age group, and the cause is our own public policy,” said Joy Wake, who helped lead the efforts of the “Start School Later” group in California, according to The Mercury News.
Those opposed to the changes say they will be disruptive to bus schedules and established family routines.
Similar proposals are being considered in New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to the news outlet.