California Bans Public High Schools From Starting Before 8:30, Cites Research That Says Kids Need More Sleep

'Put our children's health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,' said the lawmaker who sponsored the law.

an empty classroom is pictured
Wokandapix / Getty Images

'Put our children's health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,' said the lawmaker who sponsored the law.

California has passed a law requiring almost all public high schools within the state to start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., NBC News reports, citing research that says teenagers and children need more sleep.

For decades, parents have dealt with the morning ritual of trying to get bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived teenagers out the door in time for school. In fact, American culture is so used to this routine that the idea of starting school later has, until recently, been almost unthinkable. Getting up early and going to school, having gotten enough sleep or not, is just something that teenagers have to deal with.

However, in California, beginning no later than July 1, 2021, all public high schools will be required to make a change, however small, to that decades-old fact of life.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino authored a bill, signed into law this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, that requires most public schools to ring the morning bell no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Portantino cites research that says that teenagers need more sleep than their adult counterparts, and that starting school any earlier is counterproductive at best.

“Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier,” the Los Angeles County Democrat said.

an empty hallway in a school
  elizabethaferry / Pixabay

Johns Hopkins sleep expert Laura Sterni, M.D., for example, notes that teenagers’ sleep habits, though maddening to parents, are the result of their changing bodies.

“Teens experience a natural shift in circadian rhythm,” she says, and notes that the demands of school, homework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs wreak havoc on their sleep cycles.

What’s more, Johns Hopkins notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended starting high school classes no earlier than 8:30.

“Talk with your local school board about this issue,” per Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

And indeed, several school districts across the country, including Chicago, New York City, and Miami-Dade County, have moved the clock forward when it comes to beginning the school day.

Back in California, not everyone is on board with the later start time. Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, a Democrat from Long Beach and the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, notes that decisions about these matters should be made by local school boards and not state legislatures.

“We should not set the bell schedule from Sacramento. Sacramento does not know best,” he said.

Meanwhile, another aspect of school life that was once just accepted without question is going away in some school districts. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, some school districts are completely doing away with homework, citing its dubious effectiveness and the stress it puts on kids and families, among other reasons.