Parents pushing for later school start times statewide

1 in 3 teenagers say they've fallen asleep in class

BOSTON (WWLP) – Two-thirds of high school students get less than seven hours of sleep. Parents are pushing state lawmakers to start school later to improve their children’s academic performance and safety.

1 in 3 teenagers say they’ve fallen asleep in class. While adults need an average of eight hours of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation says school-aged children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Parents and school officials are calling on state lawmakers to set a statewide requirement to start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., for their children’s health, performance and safety.

“Studies have shown that driving in a sleep deprived state is equivalent to driving after drinking three beers,” said Mary Hamaker of Start School Later Massachusetts.

43 percent of U.S. public high schools start before 8 a.m., with Springfield Public high schools starting as early as 7:35 a.m. More than 5,000 Massachusetts residents have signed a petition to start school later.

State Representative Paul McMurtry, (D) Dedham, filed a bill to create a commission to investigate how this change could impact elementary and middle schools across the state.

“There’s a balance of convenience, of necessity, of health and well being of students so there’s a lot of other factors that will go into this,” McMurtry told 22News.

Districts have raised concerns that changing school start times will push end times even later, affecting after school activities, like sporting events.

“That’s part of the reason we believe so strongly in this legislation at the state level so all schools will actually be on the same playing field, and that all schools more or less start at least at 8:30 as well as then end at an appropriate time,” said Westwood School Committee member Tony Mullin.

Maine and Rhode Island are already considering legislation to push start times later.