Tired Teens Need a New Schedule

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sleepy teenOn the rare occasions when I have the motivation to crawl out of bed in the pre-dawn grayness to take a jog before starting my day, I’ve been startled by the corpse-like figures I encounter, either hunched over on the street corner or moving stiffly toward it.

They’re not ghostly apparitions or winos. They’re just tired teenagers waiting for the school bus. Lucky for them they, or more likely their younger siblings, may one day be slumbering peacefully at the crack of dawn rather than sleepwalking to school.

It’s a commonsense move, but it may take a while to implement. First, the General Assembly plans to contemplate the possibility of a bill that would set up a task force to evaluate later start times for high school students, as reported in the Baltimore Sun on March 10, 2013. Obviously, no one in a position of power wants to move too quickly on this idea. Instead, the bill, if it passes, will allow professionals including educators, mental health professionals and doctors to mull over the pros and cons of letting teenagers sleep in a little on weekdays.

I can’t imagine that anyone would argue with the assertion that teenagers regularly drag themselves to school half asleep and, therefore, probably get a lot less out of their classes than they would if they weren’t fighting the urge to put their heads down on their desks and take a nap, as they were allowed to do in kindergarten.

Speaking of kindergarten, lots of kindergarteners aren’t bouncing onto the school bus until 9am—hours after their older peers have begun the school day and, in most cases, hours after the little ones themselves have bounded out of bed.

So, why don’t school systems simply allow the youngest (and earliest risers) to begin the school day earlier, thereby avoiding late-day meltdowns, while letting teenagers—whose natural circadian rhythms will them to stay up later and sleep in later—do what their bodies want to do, hence enabling them to be more alert during the school day and less likely to make mischief in the afternoon as they’re apt to do now, when they get out of classes early and have hours to while away before their parents are home from work?

You won’t believe the reason.

Scheduling. It’s true. Time and time again scheduling, particularly of school buses, is the number one reason cited for school systems’ failure to let high school students swap schedules with younger students.

Maybe instead of the General Assembly passing a bill so that a group of highly trained professionals can sit around and discuss whether they should, in fact, let teens set their alarms later, perhaps what is needed here is a good solid secretary with common sense and great organizational skills to set the schedule straight.

School districts in lots of other states have successfully implemented later start times at their high schools. Click here for proof. 



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