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The Impact of Early High School Start Times

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 Campbell Patch blogger and am writing today about a national issue that I am 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 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 7:00 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.

Maribel Ibrahim May 22, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Dolores, thank you for sharing this important issue with Patch readers. While some may think that "early to bed and early to rise" is the simple and obvious solution to early school starts, the scientific evidence proves otherwise. Students are being asked to prepare and be ready for school at a time when their bodies should be sleeping. The pressure to perform well with multiple AP classes, competitive and rigorous sports, homework and other extra curricular activities causes sleep to be viewed as a luxury, when it is really a necessary requirement for students to function at their best. In my community, suicide has become an epidemic, and the early school starts (our county starts high schools at 7:17am) add fuel to the fire. You can read more about the pressure cooker problem that is growing too common in many American communities here: http://severnapark.patch.com/blog_posts/the-frugal-writer-we-are-not-ok It has been a true pleasure and honor to work with Dolores in our quest to ensure health and safety for public school children when it comes to school start times. Feel free to visit our website and sign up for our eNewsletter to keep posted on this critical issue. Regards, Maribel Ibrahim Co-Founder www.StartSchoolLater.net
Phyllis Payne May 22, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Thanks for working on this.

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