ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — “We need to change school start times so that everyone gets enough sleep.” That’s the message the New York State Parent-Teacher Association (NYSPTA) is pushing in its latest advocacy campaign, adding that school should not start before 8:30 a.m.
Assemblyman Harvey Epstein (D-New York City), proposed eliminating any school starting time earlier than 8:30 a.m. in 2021, as part of A.8202. The legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Robert Jackson (D-NYC 31), would amend the state Education Law to set 8:30 a.m. as the earliest time a school could start its day with schools choosing to start earlier losing state school aid.
The NYSPTA said too-early school start times are a national public health concern with consequences that directly impact children, families, and communities. Many children are forced to drive to school in pre-dawn darkness, and the hours are creating a generation deprived of sleep that growing brains and bodies require, the association claimed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics called for school start times to be delayed in 2014. “Insufficient sleep in adolescents is as important health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students,” a spokesperson for the AAP said in a statement. “Although a number of factors, including biological changes in sleep associated with puberty, lifestyle choices, and academic demands, negatively affect middle and high school students’ ability to obtain sufficient sleep, the evidence strongly implicates earlier school start times (i.e., before 8:30 a.m.) as a key modifiable contributor to insufficient sleep, as well as circadian rhythm disruption, in this population.”
In its online plea, the NYSPTA roped bus drivers and teachers into the conversation. More than one-half of middle and high school teachers wake up before 6 a.m. to get to work, the NYSPTA said, and the same amount of bus drivers are up by 5 a.m. “New York teens, teachers, and bus drivers are all sleep deprived because of early start times,” the association said.
Advocates for keeping school start times the same argue that less time would be left for afterschool activities, and that it would become harder to hire bus drivers, causing transportation issues. Most high school students work, advocates add, and with a push back of school end time, work hours would also become more limited.