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American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying school start times for teens

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August 25, 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement urging middle and high schools to delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later to align school schedules with the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents. Almost half of the nation's high schools start before 8:00 am. per the U.S. Department of Education, and most of our local North County public high schools also start before 8:00 am (examples: Carlsbad High School starts at 7:30 am, La Costa Canyon High School starts at 7:40 am, and San Marcos High School at 8:05 am.).

The AAP's position is that "insufficient sleep in adolescents as an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation's middle and high school students." AAP Policy Statement: School Start Times for Adolescents, August 2014, p. 642. Per the AAP, studies have shown that the "average adolescent in the United States is chronically sleep deprived and pathologically sleepy" (p. 642) and that the the lack of sleep not only affects overall physical and mental well being of students, but also academics.

Later start dates are crucial per the AAP: A study of middle school students showed that shifting the start time of a school by one hour increased test scores by at least 3%. In a recent three-state study, "5 out of the 6 high schools in which grade point average was assessed showed a significant pre-post increase in grade point average in core subjects of math, English, science and social studies" (p. 645).

What to do? Urge the local school board (for example San Dieguito Union High School District School Board) or the regional special education consortium (for example the East County SELPA, North Coastal Consortium for Special Education, or other SELPA ) to delay start times by presenting a public comment or petition from parents requesting a change in the start times. There are numerous online petition programs (e.g. iPetitions, change.org/, etc.) or start a handwritten one to garner the names, addresses, signatures and contact information of supporters. Also, consider joining school organizations such at the PTA or school site councils to start networking with stakeholders and decision makers about this issue.

Click here for full AAP Policy Statement "School Start Times for Adolescents" (August 25, 2014).

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