LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill Thursday that will create a task force to study the sleep needs of school-aged kids and make a recommendation by the end of the year on whether the state’s public schools should push back their start times.
Lead sponsor of the bill, Delegate Aruna Miller, says the study will be the first of its kind in the U.S.
Several Maryland school districts, including Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Howard and Carroll counties, have had independent conversations about potentially pushing back school start times.
According to Start School Later, a national organization based in Annapolis that also pushed for the Maryland legislation, starting middle and high school before sunrise “is out of sync with the biological clocks of young people” and can prevent them from getting the 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night that their bodies need.
“Even more disturbingly, starting school at these hours has now been linked not only to widespread sleep deprivation but also to a host of physical, psychological, and educational problems,” their site says.
Start School Later says school districts in at least 41 states have already pushed their start times back.
Those against later school start times have argued that after-school activities could be negatively affected by the change, and that students should simply go to bed earlier.
According to the legislation, the task force will:
- Review the science on the sleep needs of children and adolescents, including effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance and benefits of sufficient sleep
- Review and study how other school systems have implemented alternative school day starting times and how various activities in those school systems were impacted and scheduled around the changes
- Make recommendations regarding whether Maryland’s public schools should establish a policy regarding a school starting time of 8:00 a.m. or later
- Report its findings and recommendations to the Governor on or before December 31, 2014
The task force will be comprised of two members of the House of Delegates, appointed by the Speaker
of the House, and several others appointed by Governor O’Malley, including various experts, doctors and representatives from the Board of Education, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.