House urges later start times for high schools

First Published      Last Updated Feb 24 2017 12:49 pm

At a stage of the Legislature when many lawmakers are sleep deprived and living largely on caffeine and sugar, they decided Thursday that they want teenagers to get more sleep.

The House voted 46-28 to pass HCR9, encouraging school districts to consider later start times for high school students.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, a retired school teacher, sponsored the nonbinding resolution, saying that discipline was never her biggest problem with high school students, it was having them fall asleep in early classes.

The resolution noted that teens ages 15 to 19 require more than nine hours of sleep per night, but fewer than 10 percent of them actually get that much. Utah high schools tend to start at 7:30 a.m. or earlier, with students often going to sports practices or early morning LDS seminary before the first bell.

Some lawmakers opposed the bill, saying it would make after-school activities and jobs more difficult, and would complicate school bus routes.

But Rep. Bruce Cutler, R-Murray, said his grandchildren in Atlanta have schedules there reversed so elementary school children go to school the earliest and high school children the latest. He said it helps teens get more rest, and the older teens can also take the younger kids to school.

Lawmakers had some fun with the legislation. House Speaker Greg Hughes jokingly yawned and commented on how he was "so sleepy."

Moss fired back, "Could we start later?" The other members applauded.

— Lee Davidson