This fall a new California law went into effect that requires all public high schools to begin classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and all middle schools to start no earlier than 8 a.m.
Though policymakers had calculated that this law (Senate Bill 328, passed in 2019) would promote a better sleep schedule in students, and therefore better results in school, the consequences could have a greater negative impact than its intended positive results.
Who is to say that starting schools later will not just give teens another reason to stay up later? The workload will remain the same.
Whether homework is completed sooner or later, it will take the same amount of time for students to complete their homework, now merely be done at a different time of day. Is this lightening a student’s workload? In my opinion, absolutely not.
Having experienced a global pandemic on top of this modern era of social media, today’s high school students have seen a lighter workload than a couple of years ago.
As a freshman three years ago, for example, I received packets from my AP Human Geography course which required me to read through my entire textbook to find the answers. I would sit for hours on a kitchen stool, reading and doing a lot of homework every week.
Two years later, I talked to other students taking the same class, and all they had to do for the same class was copy down a slideshow presentation, and they were complaining about how hard that was!
One student told me that she would eat dinner, watch a TV show, scroll on TikTok, and right when the clock would hit 10 p.m. she would remember that she would have homework in the first place! Yet it is not just this student in particular. She is one of many similar students doing and saying the same thing.
Starting school times later only promotes watching the television later, scrolling on social media later, and doing homework later. So it could be said that the new law does the exact opposite as it was intended to do.
Now let’s talk about students who have sports. During sports season, teens usually have practice after school for a couple hours, and on gameday they have to leave during the last few periods of their classes, travel to where they will be playing and get ready to compete.
On a typical school day, a student involved in a sport will start school later, go to practice later, go home and complete homework later and go to sleep later. All which is another example of how the bill is only contradictory to its purpose of allowing students to get more sleep!
As the days become shorter this fall, students will have to leave school earlier for their competitions, thus taking away from instructional and educational time, causing students to fall behind and perform more negatively in schools, all the while creating more work for the students to make up and lose sleep over later.
One very large factor that this bill does not seem to regard is working parents. For years, working parents were able to get their children ready for school and then go to work.
Whether their children were taking transportation or not, having schools start earlier made it easier for parents to manage sending their child to school and making it to work on time. For Los Banos specifically, where many parents commute to work parents had to leave home even earlier to drive to the Bay Area to make it to work on time.
Sending their children to school later now becomes a difficult task for parents, since they may have to leave their child unattended at home while they go to work until just before the bus arrives to pick them up. For homes that are not included on the bus route, working parents become wracked trying to manage getting teens to school especially if they are younger and cannot drive.
Laws that are entailed to create “better sleep schedules” in reality also only make it harder for young adults to adjust to the real world as the work environment will not accommodate adults in every way.
In daily life most adults are expected to be at work early in the morning and get their job done, not have everything handed to them through laws that only increases laziness.
A sleep schedule cannot be bettered by forcibly altering everyone’s schedules by making school times start later; rather, it can be improved through better time management and a strong mindset that many teens noticeably lack.
Yet why aren’t these time management skills being taught at schools? These skills will not only solve the problem of lack of sleep, but will improve educational performance in teens and will be skills that can be applied for a lifetime, thus helping promote the growth of productive members of society for the future.
I spoke to Mikell Benton, who is a respected English teacher at Los Banos High School. She has taught advanced placement as well as college prep classes for years at middle school and high school levels in Los Banos. “As far as the later start time,” she said, “I think it has a negative impact on students overall.
“Not only do students already not like the late start,” Bento said, “it will also severely affect students who participate in sports or have appointments in the afternoon. They will have to leave school earlier and miss more of their core class instruction.
“The late start will encourage students not to get more rest,” Benton added, “but instead stay up even later because they can get up later. It also affects working parents like me, because it makes it more difficult for them to get their kids to school later when they have to be at work earlier.
“Overall, students should be required to begin the school day at a regular time,” Benton said, “not only to prepare them for the real world, but to also have more in-class time for instruction.”
While the new law attempts to better our education system, I believe Senate Bill 328 only makes it worse. It is contradictory to its purpose of improving sleep schedules, is destructive to the learning environment and only calls for young adults to be fully unprepared for real life to hit them.