Sleepy students ask lawmakers for a later school start time


OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Pushing school start times back one hour has been tried by individual districts, but now there's a bill to make it statewide. It's called the "Sandman Act."

The bill covers all schools statewide, including elementary schools, middle and junior high schools. State lawmakers got their first look at it Tuesday.

Three students from Snohomish High School sat in the front row of the state senate hearing wide-eyed and wide awake -- unlike at the start of the school day, they said.

"I honestly want to fall asleep in class," said high school student Amy Pratt, who performs in the jazz band and starts school an hour early at 6:30 a.m.

The students are telling lawmakers that studies show teenagers aren't ready to go at the start of the day, which is usually around 7:30 a.m. for high schools.

"So it's very early and students are still asleep and their brains aren't prepared to learn," said high school student Olivia McAuliffe.

McAuliffe's grandmother is state Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, who wrote the "Sandman Act." (SB 6429)

"Have you ever gone into a classroom and seen these kids with their heads down on their desks and they're asleep? It's just too early for them," Sen. McAuliffe said.

High school students like Josh Lynch agree.

"It's been proven actually scientifically that students perform better in their academics and even in their state testing when they're just able to get an extra hour of sleep," Lynch said.

Seattle school district voted to push start times for high schools back next year. Mercer Island has done that for all schools the past few years.

This bill would push all schools in every district all across the state back an hour. Some senators questioned whether this would be good for some elementary schools that already start late in the morning. The sponsor says the bill will most likely get amended to give some flexibility to districts.

"That is a concern and so with a statewide law then we'll have to figure out maybe there'll have to be some local control of it," Sen. McAuliffe said.

No one showed up to testify against the bill, but it still has a long way to go to see if it makes it through this legislative session which ends March 10th.

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