Monday, August 17, 2009

MCPS Students Petition for Sleep

To: The MCPS School Board

We, the parents, students, teachers, and administrators of Montgomery County Public Schools, are dedicated to removing all barriers between students and success. For this reason, we are concerned by endemic sleep deprivation in the student population.

The National Sleep Foundation reports the following facts regarding teenagers and sleep:

- In most adolescents, there is a biological tendency to fall asleep later and wake up later each day. This natural sleep pattern does not align with the typical school schedule.

- Adolescents should receive 9.25 hours of sleep per night in order to be well-rested during the day. On average, adolescent sleep 7.5 hours per night.

- As reported by their parents, 60% of children under the age of 18 complain of being tired during the day, and 15% claim to fall asleep at school during the year.

Also noted are links between sleep and the health and success of adolescents:

- It is estimated that up to 100,000 automobile crashes are related to drowsiness each year. According to one study, 55% of "fall asleep" crashes involved drivers 25 years old or younger.

- When teenagers enjoy sufficient sleep, they are at a lower risk for depression and obesity. They tend to receive better grades, and they are less likely to be absent or arrive tardy to school.

The National Sleep Foundation has tracked efforts nationwide to address the problem of adolescent sleep deprivation:

- Thus far, individual schools or districts in 19 states have delayed their start times, and over 100 school districts in an additional 17 states are considering such a shift.

- At Edina High School in Minneapolis, 93% of the respondents to a parent survey claimed that they were pleased with the change from a start time of 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.

- Studies show that in school districts that have delayed start times by only one hour, students receive an average of 50 additional minutes of rest each night.

Petition continues here*.

See similar effort underway in Fairfax County, Virginia here.

Thanks to the Teen-Centric School Hours MCPS students for forwarding their video and petition to the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland.

*Please note the online Petition contains a typographical error that cannot be corrected. In the line "In most adolescents, there is a biological tendency to fall asleep later and wake up earlier (should read "later") each day. This natural sleep pattern does not align with the typical school schedule.

Update: 8/18/09 WTOP's Kate Ryan reports.

Update: 8/18/09 Montgomery students petition for a later school bell | Washington Examiner

8/19/09 Gazette Students want school system to reconsider later start times


  1. I am happy to see this movement resurrected. Many years ago I was part of a yahoo group called It became inactive in 2006. At that time, it had 165 members. There was a pilot at BCC for later start times and efforts in Falls Church and Fairfax County.

    We are a voluntary group of parents, students and teachers in Montgomery County, MD working to prevent teenage sleep deprivation through education and changing school schedules. Our high school children have to catch school buses as early as 6:25 am. This means they do not get enough sleep, so they fall asleep in class and cannot receive the full benefits of their high school education."

  2. This is a link to the Website.

  3. I think it a mistake for the PC blog to reproduce the petition with no commentary. To me, it implies that the PC is supporting the petition. However, the petition draws conclusions that are untrue or, at the very least, not supported by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) research.

    For example, the petition says:

    > In most adolescents, there is a biological tendency to fall asleep later and wake up earlier each day.

    Apart from the obvious error ("wake up earlier" should be "wake up later"), that statement has to be understood in context. For example, the NSF clarifies that teens have an ability that "makes it easier to stay awake longer" but that teens can fall asleep at a reasonable time if teens "cut out television, video games and internet access within two hours of a bedtime", cut out afternoon naps they may be taking after school, cut out caffeinated beverages and foods from lunch to the end of the day, etc.

    One piece of selective quoting and one mistake - and that's just in the first bullet point of the petition.

    Don't get me wrong - some of the observations sound plausible. It may make sense to adjust high school hours for other reasons (better alignment with parent schedules?) but there are enough misleading statements, hyperbole, and distortion in the petition that the PC should reject the entire thing. This is exactly the kind of thing the PC should avoid or, even better, point out.

    PS: Before anyone yells at me that their child does all these things and still cannot fall asleep at a normal hour, yes, I appreciate there are families with children who have serious sleep disorders and other issues. But that is not the audience at which the petition is aimed.

  4. Parents, students and advocates for sane start times for local high schools need to be prepared for the huge "sports comes first" mentality you will confront within your community.

    Reasonable attempts to begin a full discussion of the issue in Fairfax County were killed by parents who were told Swim team programs would be killed, Freshman athletics would be cancelled (which may happen anyway thanks to budget cuts), etc., etc.

    Maybe Montgomery County will have better success attempting to find a balance for our students that allows them to begin their school day(and athletics) at reasonable start times with at least the minimum acceptable amount of sleep.

  5. My teen stays up until 11pm or midnight, no matter the amount of nagging I do. If they move the start time forward an hour, I have no doubt my teen will just delay bedtime an hour. Teens are in that stage of life when they know "everything" and we parents "know nothing". The only advantage I see about later start times is not having to wait for the bus in the dark. But, since the buses pick up high schoolers, then middle schoolers, then the younger kids...unless they come up with more buses, ALL the school schedules will have to be shifted.

  6. To Don Libes:
    Before you begin quoting the NSF, you should check the facts.

    The National Sleep Foundation specifically endorses sleep-friendly school hours. Every statement made in that petition is corroborated by the article I've linked to, and by others.

    Maybe the PC should've reviewed this petition, maybe not, but it seems that you're the one who is distorting the facts.

  7. To anonymous:
    Please don't assert I distorted facts without being specific. What facts did I distort?

  8. Your post seemed to "distort" the position of the NSF in general. Their website includes entire sections devoted to "Teens and Sleep", "Backgrounder: Later School Start Times" and "School Start Time and Sleep" all of which advocate for later high school start times that recognize the reality of adolescent sleep patterns. You did not cite the specific portion of the NSF website you put in quotations, but I assume it was from the "solutions" portion of the "Teens and Sleep" page of the website. In this section, the NSF is providing common sense solutions and tips addressed specifically to teenagers. All of these are valuable pieces of advice given to teenagers to address the reality most of them face regarding their sleep-deprivation and ways to cope with it. The section concludes with the 3 paragraphs explaining why later bell times work best for teenagers. Your failure to present a complete picture of the NSF position seems to be a distortion at the very least.

  9. Do you know the outcome of this petition, or who to get in touch with to find out? (And by "outcome", I really mean why it was denied or didn't move forward, because the schools obviously still start at 7:25.) Thank you!


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