Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sorry kids, your wellness is an inconvenience

This morning I read an interesting article in the local paper about a recent school board decision about school start times. As more research on the connections between sleep, health, learning, and development surface, many school boards across the country are reassessing the feasibility of later school start times. 

The question came up at a school board meeting in a Saint Paul, Minnesota suburb called Mounds View. Last month the board even commissioned a study looking at the effect of pushing back start times. Evidence from the American Academy of Pediatrics was considered, which recommends "middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30am or later," to address chronic sleep deprivation among adolescents and better support healthy development. They also consulted researchers from the University of Minnesota's Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.

Armed with the latest scientific evidence demonstrating the potential health and development improvements of later start times, the board decided nothing.

One board member said, "I think there was consensus across the board that the science is there: teens would benefit from a later start time."

But in the end, the status quo prevailed because putting the wellness of children first would create too much of an inconvenience. "We're back to keeping things as it is," one board member was quoted as saying.

Yes, school start times effect other school functions. There is a "ripple effect," as many board members said. But, putting health first has never been an easy choice. If it were, we wouldn't be facing such monumental health challenges in this country. 

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