Editor's Note: Terra Snider's first online petition through the We the People website first appeared on Severna Park Patch in October. The Patch poll on the topic had 279 respondents with 84 percent in favor of later high school start times. Since then, a new online petition was created at signon.org. The topic has started discussions throughout the country, including 20 Patch sites and the petition is mentioned in an article "Could Later School Start Times Improve Academic Performance?" in Sleeping Resources magazine.
Here's an update on the latest petition from Terra Snider:
In just over a month, the petition is closing in on 1,200 names from 45 states—and has begun galvanizing a national coalition of parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, sleep scientists and caregivers.
The Patch network has played a major role in this progress (to date we've been covered in 20 different communities), as have other online news outlets.
Meanwhile, a national discussion is building around this issue, which concerns health, safety and equity as much as education. New online articles about the importance of sleep and its connection to school start times appear almost daily, many of them mentioning our petition. The latest—a must-read—is psychiatrist Jeff Deitz's piece on the Huffington Post. He predicts that "It's only a matter of time until the family of someone killed when a teenager falls asleep at the wheel brings action for reckless endangerment. School board members and superintendents need to wake up now, before they receive the subpoena."
Dr. Deitz notes that high schools should begin no earlier than 8:45 or even 9 a.m.
Just last week Cleveland, TN schools announced that they're moving to later start times next year, while Amherst, MA schools put a new proposal to do so on the table.
Some of this progress is based on two new, important studies showing how "penny wise, pound foolish" we are in continuing to send our children to school in the dark:
1) A report from the Brookings Institution showing that later high school start times improve academic achievement by 0.175 standard deviations (with disadvantaged students benefiting twice as much as others) and increases students' lifetime earnings gains by $17,500/student while costing school districts between $0.00 and $1,950 per student, a benefit/cost ratio of 9:1 or better; and
2) A study of first-year U.S. Air Force Academy students showed that those starting classes before 8 a.m. performed worse not only in their first-period courses but in all their courses.
Despite this compelling evidence, at least one school is actually considering moving backwards from 8:05 a.m. to 7:14 a.m. next year. That their administration and school board can promote this change despite claiming to be aware of how harmful such hours are to health and wellbeing illustrates precisely why we can’t rely on local school systems alone to choose the kids’ interests when they have to battle so many other powerful, competing forces.
Our goal now is to grow the petition to 5,000 names, the number required by our original We the People petition, and then deliver it in person to selected decision makers in DC. If you support this cause, here are three ways you can help:
1) Sign the petition if you haven't already done so, and post the link to your Facebook page if you have one.
2) If you've already signed the petition, please help us grow it! Email friends, and at the very least ask everyone in your household with an email address to add their name. If everyone who signed the petition simply got five more people on board, we'd be over our goal.
3) Check out our website (StartSchoolLater.net) to keep tabs on news and other opportunities to be involved.
4) If you work in the health professions, please encourage your local, state, or national organizations to endorse our petition and/or our effort to promote safe, healthy school start times.
5) Share your thoughts with our county, state and national representatives.