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Blog Feature

By: Brendan Duffy, CCSH, RPSGT on November 7th, 2019

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California Dreaming is Becoming a Reality

Later Start Times | Start School Later Initiative

With apologies to the mamas and the papas, the above headline is what I wrote on Twitter to my fellow Start School Later associates when I heard that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the historic later school start bill on Sunday, Oct. 13. This bill, SB328, with few exceptions, mandates that high schools will not start before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools will not start before 8 a.m. throughout the state of California.

Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, the change will take effect, allowing enough time to make the necessary changes to meet this mandate. I was thrilled Gov. Newsom stepped up and implemented this initiative statewide because many local school boards were unwilling to do this at a local level. As Stacey Simera of Start School Later in Ohio has correctly stated, “This is not an education issue, it’s a public health issue.”

It was just a few weeks before this historic signing that I signed a health professionals consensus letter in favor of SB328. Having my name on this important consensus letter to the governor along with legends and stalwarts of the sleep field such as doctors Mary Carskadon, William Dement, Charles Czeisler and California’s own Rafael Pelayo was humbling and will be one of the highlights of my career. To be mentioned in the same historic document as these wonderful sleep clinician is unbelievable to a sleep geek like me!

Dr. Pelayo deserves special recognition in this healthy school start victory, as he not only signed the letter, but he stood up to naysayers and testified when needed in favor of this statewide start time change. His time and his commitment to do what is right for California teens is to be commended.

Additional kudos to Sen. Anthony Portantino who never gave up even when this effort failed last year when former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill. Sen. Portantino saw the statistics about early unhealthy start times and links to depression, suicide, obesity and driving accidents. He knew that lives matter more than reshuffling logistics. He chose to spearhead this bill with knowledgeable medical sleep experts such as Dr. Pelayo and several other health educators, physicians and researchers.

I am proud to be a member of AAST as they also published a position statement in support of healthy sleep and later start times. We joined forces with several other major health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in our call to help our country’s teens stay healthy. We embraced our role as technologists and educators in this discussion. 

Another group that should be commended is the aforementioned nonprofit Start School Later Inc. Led by Co-Founder and Executive Director Terra Ziporyn Snider, PhD, and Co-Founder Maribel Cabrera Ibrahim, this unwavering team of volunteers has fought against all odds to find support for our nation’s teens and their health. With little resources, and up against various well-funded lobbyists, “Tireless Terra” and her team really helped pull off a David and Goliath sized victory.

I am proud to be part of this team as their athletic liaison. On the historic Sunday night when Gov. Newsom signed SB 328, I was on social media watching the news flow in. I tweeted out that “California dreaming was becoming a reality.” I wasn’t sure who would get the reference, but I did know that several present day mamas and papas would be singing a happy tune now that they will have healthier, happier and brighter children due to the efforts of several passionate people who brought reality to an old tune! I think in time even the naysayers will come around. Change is difficult but I believe this is a great change for all involved.

There is still much work to be done, but this start time bill should inspire other states to do the right thing. Already we are watching as Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania stick a toe in the water with regard to this topic. I would recommend they dive in and join California in saving their teens from a host of unhealthy and avoidable consequences!

Congrats California! And to the other states – dream on, dream on – dream until your dreams come true!

Read AAST's Position Statement