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California Legislature

School day wouldn't begin before 8:30 a.m. in California under bill that clears the state Senate

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California teenagers wouldn't be required to start their school day before 8:30 am under a bill approved Tuesday by the state Senate.

The legislation by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) would not fully take effect until 2020, and sparked a lively floor debate over the science on the sleep patterns of middle and high school students, and whether they simply need to go to bed earlier.

"I expect this would only dispose them to stay up later," said state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). Another Republican lawmaker, Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), said students need to learn what it's like in the workforce.

"Job preparation is what schooling is all about," Fuller said. "Unless you’re a musician or someone who works nights, you probably did not start in the later morning."

Opponents also said the later start time could affect collective bargaining agreements with teachers and other school employees.

Supporters, however, pointed to a recommendation for later start times from the American Academy of Pediatrics. A University of Minnesota study linked school start times to sleep deprivation and the rate of car crashes among teenage drivers.

"The morning sleep time is the most valuable for student health," said Portantino. "Their test scores go up, their attendance goes up, their graduation rates go up."

The bill would allow rural school districts to obtain a waiver if they couldn't make the change.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) ended the debate with a simple request of the senators on behalf of teenage students.

"Let's just let them sleep in a little bit," he said with a smile.

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