California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 328 into law Oct. 13, requiring many California middle and high schools to start classes later in the morning.
The law will require middle schools to start school no earlier than 8:00 a.m., and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, will not be significantly impacted by the new legislation, BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott said in an email. Additionally, the legislation will not affect rural districts of California.
“It’s important to note that all of the District’s middle schools, and … (Berkeley Technology Academy) already meet the start time mandate and Berkeley High School, which starts at 8:27 a.m., is only three minutes shy of the new requirement,” McDermott said in an email.
Two Berkeley alumni, Lisa Lewis and Irena Keller, were involved in the push for later school start times. In addition to using her platform as a writer to advocate for the legislation, Lewis testified before the California State Assembly Education Committee, addressing the importance of teenagers getting more sleep. Keller started the California chapter of Start School Later, an organization that was highly involved in advocating for the new legislation, according to a Berkeley News article.
Most teenagers experience circadian misalignment, meaning that their internal biological clocks are disrupted by having to wake up earlier than they naturally would, according to Keller. This causes sleep deprivation, immune system issues and impaired judgment. It also hinders their ability to learn and remember new material, Keller explained.
Many medical organizations support the change, according to Lewis, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
Sleep is especially important for teenagers as it enables the brain to make connections and reorganize — which Keller said are vital to growing up.
Lewis said many oppose the new legislation claiming “schools should choose.” Additionally, some argue that teenagers are already used to dealing with early school start times throughout the United States, Lewis added.
“Just because teens are doing it now doesn’t mean it’s the right thing,” Lewis said.
She added that the school start times were often put into place for logistical reasons, including transportation, without considering whether they would help students.
There are major benefits of starting school just one hour later, Keller explained, including improved health, focus and eating habits. Student-athletes who get more sleep are also less likely to sustain an injury, she added.
As a result, the new legislation could improve health for the many students who would have more time to sleep in with later start times.
“(The movement to push school start times) is not an argument, not a debate,” Lewis said. “It’s a science-based recommendation.”