Briggs introduces bill to study a later start time for high schools

KING OF PRUSSIA, May 24 – State Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery, announced today that he intends to introduce legislation shortly that would direct the Pennsylvania Department of Education to conduct a study on the effects of implementing a later start time for secondary schools in the state.

Briggs legislation would require the Department of Education to consider the recent recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics as it studies the issues, benefits and options related to instituting a later start time to the school day for high schools throughout the state.

"My legislation would study the issue of delaying the start time of the school day for high schools in Pennsylvania, not because it is what teenagers want but because it is most likely what is good for them," Briggs said. "Emerging science has proven what many of us have known for years, teenagers need more sleep than they are getting. The consequences of failing to do so are serious, so this idea is worthy of consideration and study." 

According to the AAP, adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from physical and mental health problems, are at an increased risk of being involved in an automobile accident, and are more likely to decline in academic performance.

Briggs said he was grateful to a concerned group of parents of Lower Merion School District students, who have been encouraging the Lower Merion Board of School Directors to consider moving high school start times to later in the morning.

In February, a forum that was sponsored in part by the Lower Merion School District focused on the science behind sleep and the negative effects too little of it can have on growing teens. At the seminar, Judith Owens, director of Sleep Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and a nationally renowned pediatric sleep expert, and Katherine Dahlsgaard, a psychologist at the Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, both echoed concern about potential health issues associated with a lack of sleep in adolescents.     

"Experts across multiple fields agree, our growing teens need plenty of sleep. It is both unwise and unsafe to force them onto a schedule that their bodies are rejecting for biological reasons," Briggs said. "My legislation wouldn’t implement this change, though; it would simply direct the Department of Education to study this issue to ensure that if we do make this change it is in the best interest for our students, our schools and our communities." 

Briggs said the department’s study would also consider any possible negative impacts of a later start time for secondary schools. Once completed, the Department of Education will present its findings and any possible recommendations to the House and Senate Education Committee chairmen.