SB-328 would mandate later school start times

Jerice Banola, Staff Writer

The Constitution gives citizens the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — unalienable rights to all Americans, necessary to living a fulfilled life. However, it fails to protect something Americans love dearly: the right to sleep.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the right to sleep is consistently neglected for high school students, who are forced to wake up earlier than their biological clocks allow, creating a culture of sleepiness in first period and a lack of learning during the early hours in school.

California Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) wants to remedy this issue and has drafted Senate Bill-328, arguing that a later start time will not only benefit the health of students, but also improve school-wide attendance. SB-328 mandates that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30.

“Every year we discuss as parents, educators and legislators [what are the] best practices and interests of the children and education?” Portantino said in a Feb. 13 statement. “Well, data is clear; starting the school day later improves the quality of education, health and welfare of our children — so let’s do it.”

One argument for later start times is regarding attendance. Schools are funded by their Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which means that the more students that come to school, the more money the school receives. An absent student not only takes away from their own education, but also from the pockets of the district.

“The Los Angeles Unified School District estimated [that] by improving the current attendance rate by just one percent, the district would gain an additional $40 million per year which could be re-invested in California students’ educational growth,” Portantino said in his statement.

Aside from economic benefits and allowing teenagers to follow their circadian clocks, it is hoped students will be more attentive and alert in their first period thanks to the time adjustment. For many students, first period isn’t a time for learning but a time for waking up.

“A later start time would allow me to be better prepared and function better in my first period class,” junior Tyler Neak said. “However, I am concerned that if we start later, would that mean an even later lunch time?”

This concern of a later lunch time raises other questions that many students are worried about regarding the start time of after-school activities and natural light availability.

“It would stink to have to end practice short, especially during winter, because of how dark it gets early and how late we would get out of school or from practices,” senior Michael Khade said.

The lack of sunlight is only one of the many disadvantages of changing school start times. Parents would also have to adjust their schedule to ensure their children have a ride to school.

“My parents are my main ride to and from school,” sophomore Jeremy Del Rosario said. “I would have to find a new means of transportation if this bill is passed.”

These difficulties, while apparent, are argued to be small adjustments that are worth the sacrifice if it means improving the health of students.
“I think if the people look at the science and the data, most parents want what’s in the best interests of their kids,” Portantino said in his statement.

Contrary to Portantino’s belief, parents are the most vocal opponents of this bill, arguing the difficulties that will arise if the school start time is pushed back.

Lodi Unified parents were also the driving force behind not implementing a later start time for high schools, an idea proposed last year by the school board that is being reevaluated this year.

“I remember, as a high school teacher, watching my first period students struggle to wake up,” LUSD Board member Bonnie Cassel said. “However, the majority of Lodi Unified parents were very forthright in not wanting the early start time to change, and the Board of Education honored their wishes.”

Although the fate of SB-328 is uncertain, the school district can be trusted to follow the wishes of the majority.
“Lodi Unified will pay attention as SB-328 makes its way through the legislative process, but at this point it is only an idea,” Cassel said. “[We] would not want to go against the wishes of the community unless, of course, SB-328 becomes a law.”