Poll: Are Montclair Students Getting Enough Sleep?

Montclair/Essex residents sign national petition, cite school day as a cause of sleep deprivation.


At least a handful of Montclair residents have signed a national petition to get the government to mandate that the school day start later.

The petition is part of a national campaign to provide teenagers with more time for sleep, based on studies showing that many students are seriously sleep deprived. Students in the neighboring districts of Millburn, South Orange-Maplewood, West Orange, and Livingston also signed the petition.

The petition seeking to promote legislation to prohibit public schools from starting the school day before 8 a.m. has garnered more than 2,100 of the 5,000 signatures needed before it can be brought before Congress, the Senate and President Barack Obama.

“When we reach 5,000, we will be hand-delivering this petition to select members of Congress and the White House administration,” said Terra Ziporyn Snider, with Start School Later, a group of parents, medical professionals and caregivers circulating the petition.

Snider said that the petition has no official deadline, but that "we hope to get to the 5,000 mark by March or so and then we'll personally deliver it to Washington DC, perhaps in honor of National Sleep Awareness Week (which is March 5-11)." 

One commenter on the petition from Short Hills said: "Starting school later is not only beneficial for the students but also the teachers. Many teachers wake up as early as 5 a.m. to drive up to an hour to get to Millburn. By starting after 8 a.m. teachers will be more rested when teaching and students will be more attentive."

In Montclair, school board members have said they would like to take a look at start times—at all schools—as part of an overall evaluation of the school district.

When making a check of nearby school districts, middle schools elsewhere do indeed offer later start/finish times than Montclair's middle schools.

For example, Bloomfield Middle School starts at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:28 p.m. The middle schools in Maplewood and South Orange start at 8:20 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m., with teachers often working with children until 3:15 p.m. In Livingston, the Heritage Middle School starts at 8:20 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. while the Mount Pleasant Middle School starts at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:14 p.m.

In Montclair, Mount Hebron Middle School starts at 7:40 a.m. and ends at 2:09 p.m. while Glenfield Middle School starts at 7:40 a.m. and ends at 2:08 p.m. Renaisssance Middle School, however, starts at 8:20 a.m. and ends at 4:05 p.m. except on Friday, when school ends at 2:35 p.m.

The case of more sleep for teenage students

According to the Sleep Foundation, only 14 percent of teenagers get the recommended nine hours of sleep on a school night. Start School Later points to several studies that address the need for sleep in adolescents.

  • A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that because of their natural body rhythms, teens have trouble falling asleep before 11 at night and so waking up to get to school seven hours later prohibits teens from getting enough sleep.
  • New York Magazine reported the findings of sleep expert Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, who said, “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.”
  • Teens who get more sleep are more alert in the morning and therefore less likely to be involved in car accidents, the leading cause of death among adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To view or sign the petition, click here.

in Fairfield, Conn., contributed to this report.

profwilliams January 09, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Sorry Roc, but biology trumps tough love on this one. I don't have time to search it out, but this article from the LA times offers some info: http://www.latimes.com/la-he-school-time-20100823,0,7996181.story?page=2 This part: "Blame biology — not laziness — for making teens push the snooze button over and over again. As kids approach puberty, scientists now know, there is a two-hour shift in when their bodies release melatonin, the hormone that causes sleepiness. As a result, teens and preteens find it impossible to fall asleep until about 11 p.m., even if they try to go to bed earlier. Yet teenagers still need an average of 9.25 hours of slumber each night." So while you may be right with the lazy dolts, this ain't proof of it. Switching the start times with Elementary and High School is a no brainer.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 10, 2012 at 02:11 AM
If you want to check out the research about the biology (and other factors) involved, here are two great places to start, with more on this topic than you'll ever want to know: schoolstarttime.org and http://greenfieldsleep.pbworks.com/w/page/15769273/Journal%20Articles. Sleep is an emotional, even a moral, issue for many Americans, and the second anyone suggests starting school later (or making any changes at all), many people immediately assume it's all about lazy kids and bad parents, or start hypothesizing that the sky will fall if anything is done differently than precisely the way it's done right now (it doesn't matter what time school starts or ends, by the way - whether school starts at 7, 7:30, 8, or even 9, if you suggest change, people start complaining). Compelling evidence suggests otherwise, and, in fact, shows clearly that starting middle and high school too early is both dangerous and counterproductive (even economically, over the long run according to a recent Brookings Report). There's no question that in many communities change is threatening, complicated, and, sometimes, costly, but there's also no question that it's worth doing if health, safety, education, and equity are priorities.
Tia January 10, 2012 at 06:26 AM
I have no problem with later start times. My elementary age son wakes up refreshed. My teenager never seems to get enough sleep no matter what time she "goes to bed". Let's not even talk about the nights she is up studying or writing a paper-I've been guilty of letting her sleep an extra hour and being marked tardy for school. I'd rather have her alert than on time and sleepy.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. February 28, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Update: We're delivering this petition (http://bit.ly/tWa4dS) to members of Congress, including those representing Montclair, on March 7 if we get to goal of 5000 names by then. Right now we're at 4100, so please keep signing and sharing the link if you're tired of waiting for schools to "wake up" to the idea that it's time to put health and learning first. Meanwhile, thanks for all your support!
Maribel Ibrahim March 06, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Only 185 more signatures to help #startschoollater http://t.co/3f9MSCnP More sleep = better health & more safety


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