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Parsing public health and logistics concerns behind CA bill requiring schools to start no earlier than 8:30 am

A "thinking chair" is one method used in teacher Cherie Wood's kindergarten classroom at Willard Elementary School in Pasadena.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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If you’re a parent of teenagers, you’re probably intimately familiar with the struggles of rousing your kids in time for school.

Senate bill 328, introduced by Senator Portanino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), aims to make it easier for teenagers to get a full night’s sleep, by requiring public California middle and high schools to start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The bill was passed by state Senate Tuesday and now heads to Assembly.

The 8:30 start time is based on a policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics back in 2014. According to the statement, districts that adopted this policy had higher attendance rates and better grade point averages. Additionally, sleep research says that when kids hit puberty, their circadian rhythms shift back to 10 or 11 p.m., which makes it difficult for them to fall asleep at the earlier time needed to get the recommended nine hours of sleep.

Opponents of the bill say districts should be able to decide start times for themselves as opposed to a statewide mandate. There are concerns over whether kids, especially in poorer communities, would be able to take advantage of the later start time because of their parents’ work schedules, as well as implementation issues such as coordinating sports and other after-school activities.  

What’s your experience with sleep deprived teenagers? What would an 8:30 a.m. or later start time mean for you? And would it affect the way you or your kids get to school?


Dr. Rafael Pelayo, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, who practices sleep medicine; he testified on behalf of the bill in front of the CA education committee

Nancy Chaires Espinoza, legislative advocate for the California School Boards Association (CSBA), a nonprofit group that represents the elected officials who govern public school districts and county offices of education; CSBA is opposed to the bill