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May 24, 2016

Montgomery County lawmaker to push bill to delay start time in high schools

Later start time would help students get enough sleep

A Montgomery County lawmaker hopes to authorize a study that would examine the effects of a later start time for high schools in Pennsylvania.

The Office of State Representative Tim Briggs announced on Tuesday that the bill would be introduced shortly.

The study would examine whether a later start time would allow teenagers to get the required sleep to function better in the classroom.

"My legislation would study the issue of delaying the start time of the school day for high schools in Pennsylvania, not because it is what teenagers want but because it is most likely what is good for them," Briggs said. "Emerging science has proven what many of us have known for years, teenagers need more sleep than they are getting. The consequences of failing to do so are serious, so this idea is worthy of consideration and study."

In August 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a new policy that recommended both middle and high schools should delay the start of classes to 8:30 a.m. or later.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement.

In addition to a likely increase in academic performance, teenagers who get enough sleep are less likely to suffer from physical and mental health problems.

According to the AAP, the natural sleep-wake cycles of adolescents shift up to two hours at the beginning of puberty, which makes it difficult for them to adjust to early class times.

"Experts across multiple fields agree, our growing teens need plenty of sleep. It is both unwise and unsafe to force them onto a schedule that their bodies are rejecting for biological reasons," Briggs said. "My legislation wouldn’t implement this change, though; it would simply direct the Department of Education to study this issue to ensure that if we do make this change it is in the best interest [of] our students, our schools and our communities."

If the bill passes, the Pennsylvania Department of Education would conduct a study that would consider the impacts of a later start time.