Support Tennessee Legislation for Healthy Middle and High School Start Times

Support Tennessee Legislation for Healthy Middle and High School Start Times

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Why this petition matters

To: The Tennessee State House, The Tennessee State Senate, and Governor Bill Lee

Adolescents who start school too early in the morning face significant health and academic risks. The single best way to address this is to start middle and high schools at 8:30 a.m. or later, as recommended by major national and Tennessee health groups. For the physical health, mental health, and academic success of the students in their care, we respectfully request that the Tennessee Legislature and Governor Lee support legislation for healthy school hours.

Why is this important?

When kids enter puberty, their biological clocks shift roughly 2-3 hours later. Teenagers’ bodies are in “sleep mode” from about 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. In other words, adolescent biology makes it physically very difficult for most teens to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and very difficult to wake, let alone drive safely and learn effectively, before 8 a.m. Tennessee's early school start times require teens to wake for school by 6 a.m. or earlier.

With over 75% of Tennessee middle and high schools starting before 8:30am, our teens cannot get the approximately 9 hours of sleep recommended for their growing brains and bodies. Tennessee adolescents are dangerously sleep-deprived. Too-early wake times also deprive them of the stage of sleep critical for learning and regulating emotions. We ask you to recognize the compelling and vast body of research regarding teen sleep deprivation and its implications. For more information, see Why Change?

Adolescent sleep deprivation is directly linked to:

  • Increased rates of depression and anxiety
  • Increased suicide ideation
  • Increased drug and alcohol use
  • Increased car crashes
  • Reduced academic performance
  • Tardiness, absenteeism, and behavioral issues at school

For each hour less of sleep among adolescents studied in the Fairfax County, Virginia Youth Survey, feelings of being sad or hopeless increased by 38% and the odds of seriously considering suicide increased 42%. It was also associated with 58% greater odds of attempted suicide. 

Startling Tennessee Statistics

In the most recent Tennessee Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2019, results indicate alarming trends in the wrong direction. The state's presentation of this data indicates that a Tennessee priority is, “The Whole Child: Tennessee Public Schools will be equipped to serve the academic and non-academic needs of all students.” According to the survey, 37.5% of high school students felt sad or hopeless. Only 18.5% of high school students got 8 or more hours of sleep on school nights.

Top Health & Civic Organizations Urge Middle & High Schools to Start at 8:30 am or Later

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Society of Behavioral Medicine
  • National Association of School Nurses/Society of Pediatric Nurses
  • National Parent Teacher Association
  • Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • The Tennessee Psychological Association
  • The Arc of Tennessee
  • Tennessee Sleep Society
  • And many others

Healthy School Hours for the Win

Schools across the country that have changed to later start times report that their students have increased total sleep, leading to many benefits including:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Higher standardized test scores
  • Lower rates of depression, anxiety, and substance misuse
  • Improved attendance and graduation rates, decreased tardiness
  • Fewer disciplinary referrals
  • Fewer teen car crashes,
  • And teens who are generally much happier and easier to live with!

Tennessee schools could enjoy similar results! With your support, Tennessee can improve the physical health, mental health, and school success of students for decades to come. Please make Tennessee a leader in promoting student well-being and learning through healthy school hours. 


279 have signed. Let’s get to 500!