Later Start Times for Schools in Stafford County, VA

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Please help me delay school start times!!!!!!!! Postponing the beginning of the school day by just an hour can greatly benefit students’ mental health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep patterns shift during adolescence, and make it so that it is not natural to fall asleep before 11 o’clock at night. However, the average start time for Virginia schools is 8:03 a.m. That gives students a less than sufficient timeframe to recover from one day and prepare for the next. A 2014 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that 87% of high school students receive less than the eight to ten hours of sleep that are strongly suggested by medical professionals. Young adults naturally stay up later, so it is only plausible that they should wake up later, as well. A lack of sleep has been proven to take a toll on the mental state of students. In people who suffer from sleep deprivation, the amygdala is 60% more active than in those who get proper amounts of rest. The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain, and if it is overactive, people often experience behavioral problems and mood swings. Coupled with an immense workload, sleep deficiency among students can lead to emotional breakdowns, anxiety, stress, and depression. A lack of sleep due to early school hours can cause teenagers to suffer from emotional distress that can be extremely detrimental to all aspects their everyday lives.

    An appropriate amount of rest not only helps improve kids’ states of mind, it also boosts their academic performance, as well. Studies have shown that, “students getting adequate sleep average a full letter grade higher than those who don't,” (Pope), which provides additional evidence that sleep and grades are directly related. For example, after a Massachusetts high school changed its start time form 7:35 to 8:35, the number of D and F grades among its students dropped by 50%. A short hour everyday can raise kids’ grade point averages, statistics that can have an immense impact on their futures.  Not getting enough sleep limits “your ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems” (National Sleep Foundation) and students can “even forget important information like names, numbers, and homework” (National Sleep Foundation). A sufficient amount of sleep doesn’t only help class grades, it can improve standardized testing scores, too. For instance, after a high school in Minnesota was delayed for an hour on an SAT testing day, the scores increased by an average of 100 points school wide. Higher test results would provide a myriad of benefits to both students and schools. For teenagers to reach their full academic potential, it is necessary for them to get a healthy amount of sleep during the week; this goal could be easily reached if school began just one hour later.

    Sleep deficiency among adolescent students is an extremely concerning issue that is not addressed often enough. This issue can lead to severe mental health disorders and poor grades. That is why I have created this petition to push back the start times of Stafford County Public Schools. Within a month, I hope to have enough signatures to take this to the Stafford County School Board. In such a competitive world, it is vital that we allow each and every teenager to reach their greatest intellectual potential, and they simply cannot do that if they are running on fewer than eight hours of sleep. With a solution as simple as starting school an hour later, it just wouldn’t make sense not to. After all, today’s students are our future. Please, help me make our future a bright one.

    



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