Update/Oct.19: There are now 500 signatures on the later start times for high school students petition on the White House's "We the People" website. Terra Snider's husband Jim Snider, wrote about the website in a post appearing Oct. 11 on the Huffington Post. The Patch poll on the topic has over 200 responses, 84 percent in favor of later high school start times. If this petition gets 5,000 online signatures by Nov. 02, 2011, the White House will review it and issue an official response.
Update/Oct. 17: Terra Snider reports that there are now 300 signatures on the petition. The Patch poll reveals respondents are in favor of later start times for high school students.
Update/Oct. 14: This post has brought in quite a response from Patch readers and it will be shared among other Patch sites throughout Anne Arundel County. Please see the comments below if you are having trouble signing the petition. There is also a poll attached to the story. So far, the poll suggests that citizens are voting for later start times for schools.
As the parent of two former and one current student, I've been living with the issue of early high school start times for years. Although the consensus of scientific opinion is that teenagers (and young adults) would be better off if school hours were better aligned with their biological clocks, the possibility of changing school hours inevitably sparks raging controversy, both here and across the country.
Changing school hours costs money, and we all know school systems don't have a lot of that on hand. It also means changing the way we do things, and most of us don't like doing that much either. On the other hand, Moses didn't come down from Mount Sinai with commandments that schools must start at 7:17 a.m. and end at 2:05 p.m.
Surely if we know students learn better, and are healthier and safer, with different hours, we should make that our number one priority. Shouldn't we?
The CAC (and the now defunct countywide CAC) have been working on the issue of high school start time for years, decades even - to no avail. Many of us have become convinced that the only solution to the problem is a national mandate. That's why I created a petition on We the People on WhiteHouse.gov, a new platform that allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues.
As much as I prefer local control on these issues, sometimes you have to step in from on high (school desegregation would be another case in point). If you agree, please voice your opinion on the website. If this petition gets 5,000 online signatures by Nov. 02, 2011, the White House will review it and issue an official response.
For specific studies on sleep patterns in adolescents, the effects of early start times on learning and health, and evidence that later school hours are both possible and helpful, visit the National Sleep Foundation.
Time is of the essence: Merely to be searchable within the website, the petition needs 150 signatures. And if there aren't 5000 signatures by Nov. 3, the petition will be removed.
You can view and sign the petition here: http://wh.gov/2qJ
The petition specifically asks the Obama Administration to:
Promote legislation to prevent public schools from starting earlier than 8
a.m. Considerable research confirms the relationship between school start times, sleep deprivation, and student performance, truancy, and absenteeism, as well as depression, mood swings, impulse control, tobacco and alcohol use, impaired cognitive function and decision-making, obesity, stimulant abuse, automobile accidents, and suicide.
Mounting evidence about the biology of adolescent sleep, and about the impact of later start times, shows that starting school before 8 a.m. not only undermines academic achievement but endangers health and safety. Because logistical and financial issues prevent local school systems from establishing safe and educationally defensible hours, however, federal legislation mandating start times consistent with student health and educational well-being is essential.
Anyone interested in this issue on a more local level can also join a Facebook group promoting later start times in Anne Arundel County, https://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=103019689744482. This page contains links to recent studies showing the impact of early start times and associated sleep deprivation on adolescents.
*Patch has attached a poll to this post, weigh-in on the topic below.