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Petition Drive to Open Schools Later in the Day

A national petition drive has been started to advocate for a later time of day to start school for teenagers.

The crusade for to provide adolescent students with more time for sleep is making its way across the nation.

A petition to promote legislation that would prohibit public schools from starting the school day before 8 a.m. has garnered 1,437 of the 5,000 signatures it needs before it can be brought before Congress, the Senate, and President Barack Obama.

Start School Later, a group of parents, medical professionals, and caregivers, is circulating the petition and recently contacted the Fairfield school district about the push for later starts for middle and , which commence before the recommended 8:30 a.m. start time.

The case of more sleep for teenaged students

According to the Sleep Foundation, only 14 percent of teenagers get the recommended nine hours of sleep on a school night.

A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that adolescents have trouble falling asleep before 11 at night and so having to wake up and get to school only a little more than seven hours later prohibits teens from getting enough sleep.

Dennis Nolan, an advocate for the Start School Later petition, provided several studies and information supporting a later start for middle and high schools.

  • “To safeguard the welfare and intellectual potential of these students, sleep experts urge a delay in morning classes until 8:30 a.m., or later,” Nolan said of the start time suggested by the sleep experts (refer to the PDF included in the photo gallery).
  • New York Magazine reported the findings of sleep expert Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, who said, “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.”
  • Teens who get more sleep are more alert in the morning and therefore less likely to be involved in car accidents, the leading cause of death among adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Start School Later petition can be viewed and electronically signed here.

Editor's note: Here are some other articles about starting school later:

Citizen January 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Why does it "need" 5,000 signatures before it can be brought to Washington? And what do they honestly expect Washington to do about it? These stories have been around for years. There's no remedy. You can't dramatically shift the school day without running into parents' work schedules. And if school activities and homework already has kids up to midnight, staying in school another hour is only going to keep them up another hour.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 03, 2012 at 06:38 PM
We set a goal of 5,000 names because that was the number required for a White House response in our original We the People petition last fall. Citizen is correct that this issue (and the evidence supporting it) has been around for years, and also that an online petition doesn't inherently have any power to sway the federal (or any other) government. However, Citizen is incorrect that it is unsolvable or that this petition and movement don't have the power to open a national conversation or influence local decisionmakers. Not only have some localities (Wilton, CT one of the best) successfully moved start times later, but there is no reason schools MUST start before sunrise if they prioritize health, safety, learning, and equity (see StartSchoolLater.net for other success stories). Moses didn't come down from Mt. Sinai, after all, with a commandment that school start at any given time, and communities all over the country (and world) have found ways to start school later than 8 a.m. - and did so for many years before changing hours to optimize bus schedules. The logistical problems Citizens lists are largely misconceptions but are precisely the arguments that have kept localities from making these changes for years. Setting a minimum acceptable start time will make it easier for local schools to make this change and is a matter of basic child protection and public health & safety.
Heather Macintosh January 03, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I don't recall the science behind the decision to start high school at 7:17am. Anyone? Let's at least review the reasons behind this decision and see if they still make sense for our society.
d nolan January 03, 2012 at 11:18 PM
The official version of the first study referenced above as a Brookings Institute report can be found here, subscribers only -- http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/pol.3.3.62 -- but the authors are not, to my knowledge, affiliated with Brookings. Rather they are economists from UC Davis and the US Air Force Academy. Their study was noted in the Brookings Institute report, along with studies by Edwards and Hinrichs, all economists, but that is the extent of the affiliation. (All of these studies are available/discussed here -- http://wp.me/P1qzF7-g) Actually, it's not that 8:30 a.m. is the recommended start time as noted in the 3rd paragraph above, rather it is the earliest start time recommended by any sleep expert. Here's a pdf copy of the entire note sent to Fairfield school leaders on December 15, 2011 -- http://teensneedsleep.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/fairfield-public-schools2.pdf As noted in the letter, because adolescent sleep patterns are biologically delayed, Stanford sleep expert William Dement believes that "Sending kids to school at 7 a.m. is the equivalent of sending an adult to work at 4 in the morning.”
Citizen January 04, 2012 at 05:10 PM
How is it a misconception that we'll be shifting everything by an hour? Say for simplicity's sake that HS currently starts at 7:30 and the first kids get on the bus at 6:45. School runs 7:30-2:15. Kids then spend 1.5 hours in an after school activity (sports, plays, clubs, jobs, whatever). Now it's 3:45. Add 45 min to get the last kid home. It's 4:30. Then it's chores or free time until 6:30. Dinner 6:30-7:00. Homework 7-10. Asleep by 11. Up again at 6:00 with 8 hours of sleep. If school starts an hour later, the time doesn't get transferred to sleep. Everything gets thrown ahead an hour. 7:45 bus. 3:15 dismissal. 5:30 home. 6:30 dinner. 7-11 combine chores, free time, homework. Asleep by 12. Up again at 7. Same 7 hours of sleep unless you cut an hour out of the day's activities. Homework, chores, jobs, sports, clubs, free time, an hour's worth of something has to be cut out. That's my point. The pressure today is to overschedule and overprogram. As long as that's still the trend you could start HS at 1pm and it wouldn't help kids get any more sleep.
CB January 05, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Citizen, My child gets the bus @ 6:15 for Joel Barlow. I know he and I would love that hour in the morning........ Don't assume what you don't know because plenty of high school students need to be awake before the crack of dawn to get the bus and they would still go to bed at the same time at night. This would be great.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 05, 2012 at 02:09 AM
CB is right. It does seem contrary to common sense, but the studies on the few schools that have managed to move start times back have consistently found that by doing so the teens get more sleep on school nights. In other words, they do NOT go to bed later just because school starts an hour later (waking at 7 for 8:30 a.m. is still terribly early for most teenagers). Dennis Nolan's website startschoollater.org has links to all of these studies. In addition to getting more sleep, schools that have moved start times back also find that kids are more alert, rates of truancy and absenteeism go down, and, at least according to the Brookings report (see article) academic performance itself improves.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 05, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Correction: the link to Dennis Nolan's website is schoolstarttime.org.
bart shea January 06, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Citizen, Your close time clock has no connection to reality. Nothing ever works out as you would hope and think. Reality is, all schedules at all schools are dictated by the bus schedules and the availability of a single bus to serve HS, MS and ES. Simple logistics. A single bus has to pick up and deliver for/to three schools. Love to know how the above studies proposed funding a three tiered school bus program. Easy to suggest what is optimal. Very hard to make optimal a reality.
Citizen January 09, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Bart, I think you missed my point all together. I was creating a best case example intentionally to point out the inherent strains on the schedules of children. I wasn't trying to replicate reality nor was I saying that my hypothetical was JBHS's schedule. I was using simple numbers to illustrate my point. If we are talking about JBHS then, what of the argument that it has to open earliest so its students can pursue part time work after school? That's how it's been explained to me.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 14, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Happy to report that we're now over halfway to our goal of 5,000 names, with much of the recent progress attributable to petitioners from Southern CT. Thanks so much for your support of this complicated but critical effort, and please keep signing and sharing the link to the petition ( http://bit.ly/tWa4dS ) if you support this effort.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. February 28, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Update: We're delivering this petition (http://bit.ly/tWa4dS) to members of Congress, including those representing Southern CT, on March 7 if we get to goal of 5000 names by then. Right now we're at 4100, so please keep signing and sharing the link if you're tired of waiting for schools to "wake up" to the idea that it's time to put health and learning first. Meanwhile, thanks for all your support!

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