In 2013, my son graduated from a high school where morning classes begin at 7:30 a.m., four days a week. In the fall of his freshman year, after hearing science writer Po Bronson discuss adolescent sleep loss, I began researching the subject. Persuaded by the evidence, I suggested a start time change to the principal, Mr. Goldenberg. He thanked me for the research, noted certain obstacles, and commented, “I really have not seen or heard any negative effects with student alertness and focus with our 7:30 start time.” This information appears to be inconsistent with every pertinent study ever published, the results of an informal student poll, and student sources alleging first period and napping to be well-acquainted.
In any event, if the principal is correct, the teenagers at my boy’s alma mater, like the the demographically unique students Mr. Burnes avers to be under his care in Battery Creek (see, § IV, supra), would appear to represent biological anomalies. Scientists uniformly agree: (a) sleep-deprivation prevails among adolescents attending early starting schools (see, e.g., Ming, Koransky, Kang, Buchman, Sarris, & Wagner, Sleep Insufficiency, Sleep Health Problems and Performance in High School Students (Oct. 20, 2011) Clinical Med. Insights: Circulatory, Respiratory & Pulmonary Med. 5, pp. 71-79; Millman, edit., Excessive Sleepiness in Adolescents and Young Adults: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment Strategies (Jun. 2005) 115 Pediatrics 6, p. 1776 [“students who start school at 7:30 a.m. or earlier obtain less total sleep on school nights because of earlier rise times”]); (b) adolescent alertness remains at its lowest levels during early morning hours, increasing as the day wears on (see, e.g., Vedaa, Saxvig, Wilhelmsen-Langeland, Bjorvatn, & Pallesen, School start time, sleepiness and functioning in Norwegian adolescents (Feb. 2012) Scandinavian J. Educational Research, pp. 55-67; Lufi, Tzischinsky, & Hadar, Delaying School Starting Time by One Hour: Some Effects on Attention Levels in Adolescents (Apr. 2011) 7 J. Clinical Sleep Med. 2, pp. 137-143; Hansen, Janssen, Schiff, Zee, & Dubocovich, The Impact of Daily Schedule on Adolescent Sleep (Jun. 2005) 115 Pediatrics 6, pp. 1555-1561); and, (c) “a delay in the timing of sleep during the second decade of life has been observed in over 16 countries on 6 continents, in cultures ranging from pre-industrial to modern[.]” (Hagenauer, Perryman, Lee, & Carskadon, Adolescent Changes in the Homeostatic and Circadian Regulation of Sleep (Jun. 2009) 31 Developmental Neuroscience 4, p. 276, citing, Carskadon, Maturation of processes regulating sleep in adolescents, publish. in, Sleep in Children: Developmental Changes in Sleep Patterns (Marcus, Carroll, & Donnelly, edits., Informa Healthcare, 2nd ed. 2008) p. 96.)
The local school board, like many as it turns out, shares the principals’ disaffection for the sciences. By and large, school scheduling throughout this country continues to “run precisely counter to children’s biological needs” (Carskadon, Vieira, & Acebo, Association between puberty and delayed phase preference (1993) 16 Sleep 3, p. 261), despite decades of evidence associating early school hours with profoundly negative consequences for adolescent students. (See, § III, et seq., supra.) While some national educational associations have urged later school scheduling (Kelley & Lee, Later School Start Times in Adolescence: Time for Change (May 2014) Ed. Commission of the States; Nat. Ed. Assn. (2013) 2012-2013 Handbook, p. 250, Resolution C-3), and many individual districts have initiated some positive school hour changes, no organization or association of principals, superintendents, or school boards, at the state or national level, has stated any position with respect to the time of day school should begin. Among teachers’ organizations, the Seattle Education Association stands alone in the nation in recognizing the need for later school starting hours. Among school superintendents, Middlesex League Superintendents endorse start times between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., a rather feeble stand given that 8:30 a.m. is the earliest start time proposed by any expert. Otherwise, it has been left to to physicians, parent groups, and students to implore implementation of science-based school scheduling.
The evidence thus far, however, suggests most “educators” may be both unconcerned with and oblivious to the biology of their learners. (Wolfson & Carskadon, A Survey of Factors Influencing High School Start Times (Mar. 2005) 89 Nat. Assn. Secondary School Principals Bull. 642, pp. 47-66; see also, Troxel, The high cost of sleepy teens (May 23, 2012) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Sleep Experts Concerned About St. Paul Start Time Change (Jun. 3, 2011) CBS; Appendices A & G, infra, Schools Recently Advancing Start Times, etc., Incognizant “Educators.”) We’ve seen instances of teachers “attack[ing] research[,]” principals making false research claims, and superintendents describing as “scientific“ secondary school start time advances into the 7 o’clock hour. Perhaps Samuel Clemens’ enduring school board reflections should be more broadly applied. (See, Miller, First, Kill All the School Boards (Jan./Feb. 2008) Atlantic Monthly [“In the first place, God made idiots[.] … This was for practice. Then He made School Boards”].)
School leaders, whether indifferent or “unaware[,]” elevate budgets, busing, athletics and politics above student well-being, achievement, life and limb. (Wahlstrom, The Prickly Politics of School Starting Times (Jan. 1999) 80 Phi Delta Kappan 5, pp. 344-347; see, Perkinson-Gloor, Lemola, & Grob, in press, Sleep duration, positive attitude toward life, and academic achievement: The role of daytime tiredness, behavioral persistence, and school start times (Jan. 2013) J. Adolescence, pp. 1-8; Edwards, Early to Rise? The Effect of Daily Start Times on Academic Performance (Dec. 2012) 31 Economics of Education Rev. 6, pp. 970-983; Preckel, Lipnevich, Schneider, & Roberts, Chronotype, cognitive abilities, and academic achievement: A meta-analytic investigation (Oct. 2011) 21 Learning and Individual Differences 5, pp. 482-492; Carrell, Maghakian, & West, A’s from Zzzz’s? The Causal Effect of School Start Time on the Academic Performance of Adolescents (Aug. 2011) 3 Am. Economic J.: Economic Policy 3, pp. 62-81; Vorona, Szklo-Coxe, Wu, Dubik, Zhao, & Ware, Dissimilar Teen Crash Rates in Two Neighboring Southeastern Virginia Cities with Different High School Start Times (Apr. 2011) 7 J. Clinical Sleep Med. 2, pp. 145-151; Cline, Do Later School Start Times Really Help High School Students? (Feb. 27, 2011) Psychology Today; Teen Automobile Crash Rates are Higher When School Starts Earlier (May 12, 2010) Am. Acad. Sleep Med.)
By any measure, the proper discharge of pedagogical administration may not be reconciled with early starting middle or high schools. Dr. Helene Emsellem, CAREI Director Kyla Wahlstrom, and the National Sleep Foundation each propose education as a first step in persuading a community to consider a start time change; that we must include school leaders among those requiring instruction is a disturbing commentary on the state of our educational institutions. (See, e.g., PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can Do (2013) Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development [U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 30th among world’s most developed nations in math; 23rd in science; 20th in reading]; see also, Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators (2012) Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development; Hanushek, Peterson, & Woessmann, Teaching Math to the Talented (Winter 2011) Education Next.) School administrators’ good fortune at the lack of any meaningful competency-based disciplining bodies is equally the misfortune of our children. The authority of elected school boards, whose members qualify for office by refraining from felonious conduct (i.e., remaining eligible to vote), may be checked only at the ballot box — too slender a reed upon which to predicate the welfare and potential of children. “We need to steel ourselves to put this dysfunctional arrangement out of its misery and move on to something that will work for children.” (Finn, School boards are an obstacle to education reform (Dec. 18, 2003) Morning Call; see also, Hess & Meeks, School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era (2010) Nat. School Boards Assn., pp. 6-7; Elizabeth, School boards’ worth in doubt (Nov. 30, 2003) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
The extensive list of materials referenced here is intended to allow the broadest possible review of the relevant literature. Incidentally, in more than 25 years of practicing law, I have never been ordered to appear in a trial court before 8:30 a.m.; oral argument at the local Court of Appeal begins at 9:30 a.m.
This project is dedicated to the memory of my beloved nephew, Nathan, for whom Mr. Goldenberg’s 7:30 a.m. morning bell always rang too soon. (Winsler, Deutsch, Vorona, Payne, &, Szklo-Coxe, Sleepless in Fairfax: The Difference One More Hour of Sleep Can Make for Teen Hopelessness, Suicidal Ideation, and Substance Use (Sept. 2014) 44 J. Youth Adolescence 2, pp. 362-378.)
For reviewing the “manuscript” (a charitable description) and many helpful suggestions, thanks to Amy Nolan, M.A., B.A., Gerald Nolan, M.D., Maureen Nolan, R.N., B.F.A., Mike Nolan, M.A., B.A., B.A., and, Scott Palamar, B.A. For pointing me to new literature, thanks to Phyllis Payne, M.P.H., and Dolores Skowronek, MLIS.
California Style Manual (link to 4th ed.) citation form for endnotes, main text and appendix book/article citations, sans references to retrieval dates. Copyrighted materials are utilized here under the “fair use” doctrine. (17 U.S.C. § 107.)
Website layout by Scott Palamar.
—Dennis Nolan, J.D., Certified specialist, juvenile law (child welfare), May 8, 2011; dennisn.pd/at/gmail.com
Examples of published or posted citations to this website: books (Pediatric Health Conditions in Schools: A Clinician’s Guide for Working with Children, Families, and Educators (Dempsey, edit., Oxford Univ. Press 2019), p. 410; A. Galván, The Neuroscience of Adolescence (Cambridge Univ. Press 2017) p. 238); legislative materials (Sen. Anthony J. Portantino, sponsor of Sen. Bill 328, Research Booklet (2017-2108 Reg. Sess.), Mar. 7, 2017, pp. 70, 206); medical journals (here, p. 647, here, p. 90; here, n. 43); medical professionals (here, here, here, p. 43, here, 13th ¶); news publications (Huffington Post (here, 2nd ¶); Wall St. J. (here, 1st ¶, here, 3rd ¶, here, 5th ¶); Wash. Post (here, 3rd ¶)); Schools Health Education Unit (here, here, pp. 57, 59); U.S. Schools/Districts (here, here, here, here).