New California Bill Could Make Early School Start Times Illegal 

Soon everyday may be “sleep-in Sunday” for students in California thanks to a new measure narrowly passed by the state’s legislature in August.

Lawmakers from the Golden State have voted to prohibit middle and high schools from starting classes before 8:30 AM in an effort to help students get more sleep. Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) authored the bill known and codified as SB328, and say it’s expected to be approved by California Governor Jerry Brown. The mandate will give schools three years to comply, and its proponents are hopeful that it will improve students’ daily sleep patterns as well as their overall health and academic performance.

I reached out to several California school districts to understand how this proposal for more sleep is being received by administration, but they all declined to comment. However, according to Sen. Portantino, SB328 is a win for students. He stated:

I am beyond thrilled that our children’s health came first today. It is fundamental to put the well-being of our students first and I am glad that this important measure is moving forward. From day one, this has been my top priority.  The science and results are clear, our teens are healthier and perform better when school starts later.

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Related: Study suggests kids are losing sleep due to too much screen-time


For many, SB328 represents an opportunity for parents to ensure their kids are getting adequate sleep, which experts agree is critical to optimal cognitive performance, physical health, and productivity at school. While the new law covers students in California, the National Sleep Foundation reports that nearly half of American students aged 11 to 17 get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night. Maybe that’s why California school districts are not the first to attempt this movement for more sleep.

Cincinnati’s Forest Hills school district recently pushed its class-start time back by 40 minutes for high schoolers and over an hour for middle schoolers. New York’s Niskayuna school district has been debating a delay in High School start time since last year. To date, schools in 45 states have adopted new start time policies following The American Academy of Pediatrics’ suggestion to “let them sleep.”

The AAP maintains that students who don’t get enough rest at night commonly show up to school late, fall asleep at their desks, have high rates of absenteeism, have weight issues, drive tired, and more. California lawmakers argue that SB328 will serve to reverse this trend, while also saving the state’s school systems billions of dollars through improved graduation rates and making better use of federal funds. It will be interesting to see how this nationwide push for more sleep will affect students across the country.

Update: California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. vetoed SB328 on September 20th, 2018

Sarah Riccio

Sarah is the former senior writer and bedding expert at Sleepopolis. She received her degree in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and spends her free time doing stand-up, making pasta, and hanging with her cats.

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