CAHC Supports SB 328 - You Should Too!

Attention all people who care about teens! Please contact your CA State Legislators to support SB328! Find your rep using this link: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

Or, if you are in or near Sacramento or willing to travel, come express your support at the Committee hearing on July 12th! Contact alison.chopel@phi.org if you are interested and need more info.

 

The California Adolescent Health Collaborative (CAHC) strongly supports SB 328 (Portantino), which will require California school districts to start their middle and high school days no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Since 1994, CAHC has been working across sectors to improve the health of California’s adolescents and the capacity of our systems to support adolescent health. Our strategy is to connect research and practice so that young people develop the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to transition successfully into adulthood. We partner with schools, school districts, public health departments, youth empowerment and employment organizations, juvenile justice systems, healthcare providers, youth leaders, and scientific researchers in service of our mission. We exist because adolescents are different, science proves this and we all know it. It’s time that our policy reflects this knowledge as we strive to better care for our youth on the cusp of adulthood.  

Given the established connections between widespread health problems (including obesity-related diseases, unintentional injury such as motor vehicle accidents, and intentional injury such as suicide), and insufficient sleep, the returns on the proposed policy to start schools later and allow California’s young people the opportunity to protect their health could be even greater than we anticipate. Changing school start times is vital given the physiological changes that adolescents undergo. Adolescents need at least as much sleep as children, and their changing circadian rhythms make it extremely difficult to sleep earlier, even when required to wake earlier. Myriad risks of inadequate sleep to health and cognition include increased ADHD symptoms, suggesting that improved adolescent sleep could result in marked educational improvements.

Furthermore, as violence to self and others is linked to mental illness, this policy could improve public safety. While adolescents as a group, in comparison to other age groups, are at the peak of physical health, they are disproportionately impacted by poor mental health and especially vulnerable to developing new mental illness. There are things we can do to protect our youth from these risks- and one of them includes encouraging and protecting healthy sleep. Given the lack of fit between adolescents’ biological needs and their societal requirements— some secondary schools start as early as 7 a.m.- mandating later school start times is a reasonable way to do this. We have a responsibility to our children to act on the science.

CAHC is dedicated to health equity. Given the evidence that sleep is an inequitably distributed health input (men, black people, and less affluent people get less sleep than their counterparts), we believe that addressing it among youth in a universal way via a statewide school policy can bring us closer to a health equitable society. CAHC and our partners work with some of the most vulnerable youth: young people who live in very rural areas without public transportation or access to quality healthcare, foster children who have no family or even consistent school environment, homeless children and very low-income youth who don’t know where their next meal is coming from or where they will sleep the night, commercially exploited children who are treated as commodities, children (disproportionately of color) who have been accused of committing crimes and are incarcerated. In our experience, too many children are left behind. Let’s prioritize health equity starting early, and give our youth a fighting chance.

Few programs or organizations have the ability to positively impact as many children as do state law-makers. We hope that California legislators will lead the way for the nation in emphasizing the importance of our children’s health by mandating that schools respond to science which unequivocally draws the link between school start times, sleep, and disease and injury prevention.

For more information, check out this SB 328 Fact Sheet!