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Later school start times for California students laid to rest for the year

Metropolitan High School student Yesenia Ceballos, 18, waves to family members at a graduation ceremony. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Metropolitan High School student Yesenia Ceballos, 18, waves to family members at a graduation ceremony. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A bill that would require California middle and high schools to begin their day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. is being shelved for the year, its author said Friday, a day after it fell well short of the votes needed for passage.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge), who said he will revisit the issue in January.

Portantino said he is "disappointed in the opposition that promoted non-science and unsubstantiated arguments against SB 328, forcing us to move this fight for our children's health to January.  I'm committed to this issue and I will continue to work to see it become law."

Supporters had cited research from sources including the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showing that later starting times for schools reduce the negative impacts of sleep deprivation. Adolescents' brains are "hard-wired" to not sleep before 11 p.m., the supporters said.

"School districts around the country that have moved teenage school start times later have seen measurable, positive results for student achievement and student public health," Portantino said after introducing SB 328. 

The measure received 26 of the 41 votes it needed for passage in the Assembly late Thursday, with opponents saying the state should not impose a blanket restriction on local school districts better positioned to determine the best hours based on their individual circumstances.

Republican Assemblyman Matthew Harper, who served on the school board in his hometown of Huntington Beach, said during the floor debate that some coastal schools have to accommodate surfing teams, while Central Valley schools might have to schedule around agricultural needs.

“Each individual school board should make that determination incorporating the local needs of their local communities,” Harper said. “This one-size-fits-all approach really is kind of ridiculous.”

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