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California law mandates later school days for middle and high school students

Oct. 14, 2019
By 2022-23, high schools won't be able to start classes before 8:30 a.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that bans high schools from starting classses before 8:30 a.m.

NBC Southern Calfornia reports that the legislation also bans middle schools from beginning before 8 a.m.

Many educators and health professionals have advocated later start times for schools so that students can get to school more safely and aren't deprived of sleep because of early wakeup.

The law goes into effect no later than July 1, 2021. Individual schools and districts have altered their schedules to start classes later, but California is the first state to mandate later start times for schools.

Teachers and school districts opposed the law, arguing the decision on when to start school should be left to local officials.

But the bill's author, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, says the law puts children's health and welfare "ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change."

"Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier," Portantino says.

Los Angeles Unified District, the state's largest public school system, issued a statement after the bill was signed.

"Los Angeles Unified did not take a position on Senate Bill 328," a district spokesperson says. "Now that it has been signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, we will closely evaluate the impacts to our schools in anticipation of the bill taking effect for the 2022-23 academic year."

The California State PTA co-sponsored the bill. Speaking on the group's behalf, Carol Kocivar said, "When teens get enough sleep, they are safer, healthier and do better in school. The California State PTA is proud to co-sponsor this bill and looks forward to helping implement this historic initiative across our state."

A legislative analysis of the bill Newsom signed into law found that studies about the impacts of school start times over the past 15 years have had "wide variation in conclusions."

"We should not set the bell schedule from Sacramento," said Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D-Long Beach), chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. "Sacramento does not know best."

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