BEAVERTON, Ore. — A Beaverton parent is trying to gather support for a petition to delay school start times for teens across Oregon.
Charissa Brock said her 14-year-old son starts school at 7:30 a.m. He gets up for school at 6:40 but other kids get up even earlier to catch the bus. One parent said their teen catches the bus at 6:17 a.m.
Brock worries about kids standing at a dark bus stop during the winter months.
“It's really unsafe,” she said.
In addition, Brock is concerned about teens not getting enough sleep.
“My child has a really hard time eating in the morning because he feels nauseous because his body's still in that sort of half-sleep state,” Brock said.
She has started a petition asking the state to change school start times to after 8 a.m. for teens in middle and high school across the board.
Middle and high school students in the Portland Public and Salem-Keizer school districts already start later. In the Beaverton School District, where Brock’s son attends class, high school starts at 7:45 a.m. and a handful of other programs begin at 7:30 a.m.
“I think if people understood the possible physical consequences and the developmental consequences of this issue, that they will be quite alarmed,” said Dr. Stephen Levy, a naturopath, acupuncturist and massage therapist.
Levy runs a private practice in Southeast Portland, and he's also engaged to Brock. He said about a quarter of his patients are children.
According to Levy, sleep deprivation has psychological consequences like a lack of decision-making skills or creativity. Long-term physical effects may include obesity and heart disease.
Levy said when teens hit puberty, their hormones are changing along with their production of melatonin, the compound that makes you sleepy. Their circadian rhythm is changing and adjusting.
“Teens can't fall asleep early enough to be able to get up early enough [for school] because they physiologically haven't adjusted,” said Levy.
But not everyone supports the shift. Some parents are worried about the impact on work schedules. Then there are the transportation logistics involving school buses. There are also concerns among some parents about the effect on extracurricular activities, which would be pushed later into the day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends later start times for teens because of health benefits. Studies also show teens who get more sleep have improved grades and test scores.
Health experts say students ages 13-18 should get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night for good health.
In 2019, California became the first state to mandate later school start times. The new law, which kicks in next school year, requires most middle schools to begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools at 8:30 a.m.