Starting July 1, California teens can sleep in a little later, even on school days. Senate Bill 328, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019, states that public high schools can start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and middle schools must begin at 8 a.m. or later.
Most school districts have a fleet of buses that services all students from elementary through high school. Teens have long been the ones to start school earliest, primarily to prevent younger students from waiting at the bus stop in the early morning darkness and allowing parents to see their children off before leaving for work.
However, experts have long discussed the negative aspect of making students start their days so early.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that insufficient sleep significantly affects middle and high school students. In a 2014 statement, the AAP urged high schools and middle schools to schedule start times that allow students to attain 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep. The organization said doing so would improve physical and mental health, safety, academic performance and quality of life for tweens and teens.
A 2004 study by researchers at the University of Munich showed that the 24-hour cycle, which determines when people wake and sleep, gets later during the teen years. After age 20, the waking and sleeping times gradually get earlier. The clash of biological and social time students experience can result in sleep deprivation.
The law, written by Democratic state senator Anthony J. Portantino, is intended to improve attendance rates and reduce tardiness. However, critics predict logistical issues and extracurricular activities being pushed into late evenings. In addition, the California Teachers Association had opposed the bill, stating that start times should be decided at the local level with community input.
Several other states are considering later start times. In addition, some large school districts, including ones in Denver and Philadelphia, are making these changes.
The new California law will not apply to rural districts. All other schools have until July to comply.