California Passes Law Forcing High Schools to Start after 8:30 A.M.

California students may be sleeping in a bit more than the rest of the country as schools in the state are set to start later.

According to a new bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday, high school classes will no longer be allowed to start before 8:30 a.m., and middle school classes before 8 a.m., CNN reports.

Schools will have to follow the new start times set by 2022 as they are given three years to comply with the law. The law applies to public and charter schools, except for rural school districts. Before this law was signed, almost 80% of public middle and high schools statewide start before 8:30 a.m., with the average start time being 8:07 a.m.

The move coincides with the initiatives being pushed by the “start school later” movement for decades. The idea is to make school districts adjust their daily calendars for the sake of student health. California State Parent Teacher Association (CSPTA) also supported the law.

“We think of it as almost a joke, that teenagers are always crabby in the morning and they stay up way too late,” CSPTA president  Celia Jaffe was quoted as saying

“[Later school start times are] better for their mental health, it reduces depression and other mental health problems.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association all suggest that middle and high schools that start at 8:30 a.m. or later will help ensure that students arrive refreshed and ready to learn.

Based on studies, later start times in schools indeed result in better attendance, less tardiness, fewer students falling asleep in class and improved grades. Findings also suggest that starting later lowers the risk of developing issues such as depression and substance abuse among teens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report last year that students who sleep at least eight hours each night get better grades and have better attendance. Currently, over 60% of middle schoolers and 70% of high school students don’t get enough sleep.

Meanwhile, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), which opposed the law, cautioned against how the later start times would cause unexpected expenses to teachers and school districts.

“Often working families have strict schedules with less work flexibility and they won’t always be able to accommodate them in a way that’s necessary to make late start times work,” CSBA spokesperson Troy Flint said.

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