PPS students' health and education is at stake - 7:15 a​.​m. start times for high school?!

PPS students' health and education is at stake - 7:15 a​.​m. start times for high school?!

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Dr. Tamara Dubowitz started this petition to ahamlet1@pghschools.org and

Dr. Hamlet and members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board,

It has come to our attention that earlier start times for high school students are being proposed in the collective bargaining agreement with teachers to address the transportation crisis caused by the school bus driver shortage.

For the health and academic outcomes of our students, families, and communities at large - we are pleading with you to reconsider your proposal immediately. The available evidence conclusively demonstrates that high school students should be starting their school day much later than the proposed times, due to the biologically-based changes in sleep-wake schedules that occur during adolescence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control, the Joint State Commission of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and many other major medical organizations recommend start times for middle and high schools no earlier than 8 a.m. and preferably 8:30 a.m. or later.

Starting schools, and especially high schools, before 8 in the morning will contribute to the significant public health problem of insufficient sleep among teenagers and could also exacerbate existing academic and health inequities. A start time of 7:15 a.m. (as proposed for Allderdice, Brashear, Carrick, Obama, Sci-Tech, Perry, Westinghouse, and U Prep) and 7:35 a.m. (proposed for CAPA 9-12)  will impact all students negatively, but will be especially dangerous for students who are traveling the furthest to school, and who are disproportionately Black students or students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. In turn, this becomes a critical issue of equity. As explained by the organization Start School Later (https://www.startschoollater.net/):

"Parents with means may choose to drive their students to school or provide them with cars to give their children extra sleep in the mornings. They might provide late rides to school and absence notes on occasion to overcome the health, safety, and learning impact of chronic sleep deprivation. Families with fixed work schedules or lacking transportation aren't able to help their kids if they miss the bus and thus put their children at risk of tardiness or absence. As a result, children from disadvantaged backgrounds not only risk higher rates of tardiness and truancy, but also higher rates of dropping out of school - potentially increasing the achievement gap. When school start times are moved later, not only do rates of tardiness, truancy, absenteeism, and dropping-out decline, but improvements in academic achievement are nearly twice as high in students from economically disadvantaged homes."

In the report of the Advisory Committee on Later School Start Times at Secondary Schools to the Joint State Government Commission, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it clearly states:

"There is emerging evidence that adjusting school start times can mitigate this “achievement gap” which exists between upper and lower middle class students. A sleep study from Seattle examined the effects of a 55-minute-later school start time on two high schools, one of which had many more economically disadvantaged students (86 percent) and ethnic minorities (68 percent) than the other (31 percent and 7 percent respectively). With the later school start time, the less advantaged school demonstrated lower rates of tardiness and absenteeism, while there was no change in either category at the other school."

Sleep deprivation impacts emotional and physical health and academic performance. Besides forcing many children to walk and drive to school in pre-dawn darkness, such hours deprive teens of the sleep that their growing brains and bodies require.

Teaching to teens who are chronically sleep-deprived will magnify academic disparities and teachers will bear the brunt of this challenge.

If early start times are necessary because of transportation issues, the youngest children (and schools) should be starting earlier - not the teens.  We are aware that this requires additional coordination from the District to accommodate the needs of younger and older students and that should not be a deterrent, because that is part of the mandate that falls on the District.  As parents, we are holding you to that mandate and will be actively protecting the interests and well-being of our children. 

Dr. Hamlet and members of our Pittsburgh Public Schools Board - we expect more from you.


Concerned PPS parents, students, and community members

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At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!