Oct. 14 (UPI) -- California has become the first state to pass legislation that forces schools to open later with the aim to promote the health of students.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation on Sunday, prohibiting middle schools from starting class before 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
"The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance and overall health," Newsom said in a statement. "Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes."
The new law, which passed in the Assembly in September, must be adopted by schools by July 1, 2022, or when a school district's collective bargaining agreement expires, whichever is later.
The bill also encourages the State Department of Education to post online information and research on the impact sleep deprivation has on adolescents and the benefits of starting school later.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said it has found that schools starting before 8:30 a.m. is a key cause of insufficient sleep in adolescents, which it recognizes as a "public health issue."
However, the California Teachers Association said the bill will disproportionally affect working families.
"SB 328 could have a disproportionately negative impact on working families, particularly laborers and service industry employees who don't have the option of starting their workday later," said CTA spokeswoman Claudia Briggs. "We know from experience that many of these parents will drop their children off at school at the same time they do now, regardless of whether there is supervision, and there is not enough funding from the state for before school programs to ensure the safety of students who will be dropped off early."
The bill's author, Democrat Sen. Anthony Portantino, called this claim "adult-based" criticism.
"Productivity goes up because suspensions go down. Disruptive behavior goes down. Tardies go down. Violent behavior goes down. What it comes down to is a reluctance for adults to change," he said.
He said this bill will have "overwhelming" health and welfare benefits for school-aged children.