California’s New Law on School Time Change


During the past several years, there has been lots of conversation of changing the starting times of public middle and high schools. Now, California has passed a new law in which most middle schools and high schools across California will start no earlier than 8:30 AM. This law was signed on October 13, 2019, by Governor Gavin Newsom, making California the first state to operate under this new time change.

Anthony J. Portantino was the Democratic state senator accredited for writing the bill. Overall, Portantino believes that this law will improve test scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates without costing

Supporters of this law believe that the later time change will positively impact the development of students’ brains and decrease risk factors such as diseases later in life. According to recent studies at Stanford University, specialists have discovered that an extra hour of sleep was seen to have helped students in creating an efficient sleeping cycle that carried into their adulthood. An extra hour of sleep is believed to help students feel less anxious and depressed while performing better academically. The
discoveries of similar tendencies of adolescent sleep patterns have been reported not only in North America but also in South America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

The root of conflict in adolescent sleep deprivation is driven by a teens’ internal biological sleep pattern and their everyday schedules. As a result, California became the first to take a look at school start times in order to set a reasonable rhythm for students, parents, and teachers to start off their day. This law was built upon three decades of studies on teen health, sleep patterns, and brain chemistry. This new law is said to be implemented gradually over the next three years and would not apply to zero periods. These new start times are planned to be enforced by the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. Schools have already begun to take action through creating negotiating agreements with teachers to discuss the option of reforming to the later start times at schools.

Although students will be receiving an extra hour or 30 minutes of sleep, there have already been many controversies over the fact that many parents do not have the luxury of having flexible schedules to adjust to these later start times in schools. Critics over this new law have also pointed out the challenges students will have to face due to additional commuting difficulties.

In late 2017, the Boston Public Schools system voted to alter later start times in schools but withdrew this change after facing criticism and backlash to this system. Because the majority of parents do not have adjustable schedules to maneuver with later start times in schools, students will have to resort to taking zero period classes. However, zero period classes do not apply to California’s new law. Hypothetically, this would mean students would have to attend zero period classes to conform to both the new start times and to their parent’s schedules. With this new system, there will be a handful of students who will be stuck in the same cycle with the loss of a few minutes of sleep.

Overall, this system will either give 30 extra minutes of sleep or take away a few minutes of sleep from students. These situations are one of the many times where a negative default are one of the unintended results in situations and systems like the new time change of schools in California.

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