Don’t ignore the science

By From page A6 | September 04, 2014

I was deeply disappointed with schools Superintendent Winfred Roberson’s reaction to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that high schools start classes later in the morning.

The academy described specific biological factors that shift the natural sleep times for adolescents, including delayed secretion of melatonin in the evening and altered brain response to sleep loss. It also cited a range of studies showing that later high school starting times decreased behavior problems, absenteeism and depressed mood, and increased attention, motivation and academic performance.

The superintendent’s response, as reported in Tuesday’s Enterprise, was to simply ignore the science. Instead, he said, the schools will help student “build life skills” to “prioritize their competing forces that may be cutting into the recommended sleep time.”

Really? The high school is going to teach students to control their circadian rhythms? It’s going to give them the “life skills” to regulate the timing of their bodies’ secretion of melatonin? It will educate them to overcome biological sleep-wake phase delay by sheer force of will?

Perhaps the next time the superintendent responds to a science-based recommendation, he might want to read it first.

Steven Carlip


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