Tennessee considering later wake-up call for middle and high school students

Bill would push back school start times
Metro school bus
Posted at 6:06 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 14:52:00-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The proposed bill would prevent any public middle or high school from starting before 8 a.m.

Under the bill introduced by Nashville Representative John Ray Clemmons, public middle schools could not start before 8 a.m. and high schools couldn't start before 8:30 a.m beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.

"I didn't really think it was as much as an issue because I thought they'd listen," said Anna Thorsen, a mother of two girls in high school in Metro Nashville Schools.

Thorsen thought, by now, school start times would be later. Metro high school start at 7:05 a.m. - one of the earliest start times in the country.

While this is the first time state lawmakers are talking about the idea, it's been discussed within Metro Schools for years. In the past, the district has said changing the start times would impact bus schedules and extra-curricular activities after school.

"Do we really think that districts like Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, all of California, that if they start at 8:30, they just don't have football?" Thorsen said.

Thorsen, who has children with disabilities, believes because of teen sleep research, the proposed legislation is too important not to consider.

"So many disabilities have these issues where the early start time can be really detrimental or potentially life-threatening," she said. 

Research shows that teenagers should have at least nine hours of sleep a night - but studies show that almost never happens - especially if kids have to be up early for school. A teenager's natural body clock is set to go to sleep later and sleep in.

"We want our kids not to be exhausted, but for those of us that have those extra layers, it can really be more of a life-or-death issue," Thorsen said.