Change NJ High School Start Times to 8:30 or later (Yes on Bill A3816)

Change NJ High School Start Times to 8:30 or later (Yes on Bill A3816)

June 10, 2022
Signatures: 128Next Goal: 200
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Why this petition matters

Started by laura Y

Proposed Bill A3816, if passed, will require certain public schools to begin regular instruction for high school students no earlier than 8:30 A.M.

The current average start time for NJ schools is 7:51 am, with some schools starting as early as 7:15 am.   

Later high school start times are associated with: 

  • Improved grades and test scores
  • Better school attendance
  • Better eating and hygiene habits
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced disciplinary problems, drug use and violence. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) unambiguously recommend that teenagers should have later school start times. All available data suggest that a high school start time of earlier than 8:30 am has negative consequences on every aspect of their lives. 

High school-age kids are supposed to get 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep.

With a 7:15 am start time, kids who take the bus to school must wake up by 5/5:30 am to get ready and catch their bus. This means that to be physically and psychologically healthy, they would need a bedtime of 8 pm at the latest. This is highly impractical due to teenage circadian rhythms, and social norms and conventions. Many extracurricular activities for kids of this age don't end until 8 pm or even later. 

Teens Are Biologically Wired to Go to Sleep Later (and wake up later)
UCLA Info on Sleep Phase Delay

Puberty is associated with a shift in the circadian rhythm timing, called "sleep phase delay", where teenagers naturally start to feel tired around 10-11 pm. This dramatically increases the difficulty for high school students to get to sleep early enough to get ~9 hours of sleep and still wake up in time to get ready for school starting before 8 am. It's illogical to force the majority of teenagers in NJ to fight biology on a daily basis because our schools start too early.  

The CDC says that Drowsy Driving is Similar to Drunk Driving
CDC on Drowsy Driving
And that Teen Drivers are at Greater Risk of Car Crashes
CDC On Teen Drivers

"The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16–19 than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, teen drivers in this age group are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash."

Yet many NJ high school schedules subject adolescents to sleep deprivation.. during the years where we teach them to drive and they take to the road as new drivers. This issue affects not only people associated with NJ high school students, but anyone who drives in NJ. 

Our Pandemic Response Proved that We Can Make Big Changes 

During the 2020-2022 school years, we proved that every single aspect of "school" can be dramatically changed when necessary to protect public health. Making the high school start time later, would protect the physical and mental health of every child attending the high school. 

Early high school start times are encouraging adolescence to establish unhealthy morning and lifestyle habits--including skipping breakfast to rush out the door, and excessive and chronic caffeine intake to stay awake. It's irrational that we're encouraging/forcing the majority of teenagers in our state to wake up well before dawn and risk their health and well-being during important developmental years.  

Later start times for school days can also reduce crime, says Rutgers University–Camden researcher

School safety is a major national concern. With many different approaches proposed, it's worth considering that NJ high schools are full of thousands of chronically sleep-deprived adolescents. One major thing we could do to make NJ high schools safer is to push back the start times to 8:30 or later--thereby immediately improving the potential and likely physical and mental health of every single student.

Research demonstrates that more sleep is linked to greater self control, such that delaying the school start time could reduce in-school fights, antisocial behaviors, and help teens avoid legal troubles. 

Early Start Times Widen Education Inequality

When a school has an early start time that pushes all students to perpetually battle sleep deficiency, some kids will be disproportionately impacted.

The consequences will be greater for:

  • Students who face longer travel times to get to school, for example, those who much be ready at a bus stop an hour or more before school starts
  • Students with home life situations that do not encourage and support an early bedtime
  • Students with physical or mental health conditions that may be exacerbated by chronic sleep deprivation 

Delay High School Start Times to Help Students And Teachers of NJ 

Passing A3816 would be a truly heroic action on the part of the NJ government, having enormous benefits for all current and future NJ high school students, not to mention parents of NJ high school students, and NJ high school teachers.

NJ high school teachers already have a tough job--educating thousands of adolescents and maintaining the rigorous standards of the USA's top state for education. The NJ government could make teachers' jobs easier and safer by passing A3816. NJ high schoolers don't have to be chronically sleep deprived and caffeine addicted. 


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Signatures: 128Next Goal: 200
Support now