California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 328, Oct. 13, that makes California the first state to mandate later start times for middle and high school classes. According to the law, middle school classes cannot start before 8 a.m., and highschool classes must wait to start at 8:30 a.m.
California schools have until July 1, 2022 to comply — this law marks a great first step in the right direction. Laws like these are incredibly important because it means that our society will view sleep much more seriously as it is one of the most critical factors during the growth of adolescents.
It is recommended that teenagers maintain around nine or more hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, most teenagers only get an average of about seven hours of sleep each night, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
While some of this lack of sleep can be attributed to the individual’s own personal choices, like staying up late at night, the reality for most teenagers is that school starts far too early. This results in many students not being fully awake and ready to learn by the time their classes start in the morning.
Speaking from personal experience, most students in my first-period class in high school were either not fully awake or were having immense trouble keeping up even while material was being taught in class. Essentially, their physical bodies were there, but their minds were not.
Situations like these are incredibly harmful to a student’s education, especially if their early morning classes revolve around complex course material like chemistry or statistics.
Another major factor that contributes to student’s lack of sleep is the increasing amounts of homework that are constantly being dumped on students every day. The situation worsens for those taking AP courses.
At times, I recall being so consumed with homework after school that by the time I looked at the clock, it would already be 9 p.m. Making matters even worse was the realization that I’d still have about two hours left of homework to complete. The next day, I would inevitably attend class completely exhausted and not being able to grasp whatever was being taught.
One of the biggest arguments against the alteration of school start times is the idea that it will negatively impact parents because of their work schedules. However, a half-hour later start time and the typical release at 3 p.m. wouldn’t affect parents with a typical nine-to-five shift any more than it currently does now. Also, as The Atlantic reports, most school schedules are not equally lined up with most parents’ work schedules already.
With the introduction of this new law, it shows that California is taking a very necessary step in caring for the mental health of students. While this is a small step, it is the first one that could potentially pave the way for schools in the future to care more about students’ well-being.