Legislative committee endorses studying later start to school day for high schools

(KCPW News) Utah lawmakers are examining the potential benefits of a later start time for high schools in the state. 

In a Monday afternoon committee meeting, Draper Democratic Rep. Suzanne Harrison explained the rationale behind House Concurrent Resolution 3

“Our kids are exhausted – impacting their mental and physical health as well as their academic performance,” Harrison told members of the House Health and Human Services Standing Committee. “We know that our chronically sleep-deprived kids are impacted also in their academic abilities in terms of inability to retain information [and] learn at a maximum ability,” she said.

Harrison’s resolution doesn’t change the start time for any schools; the legislature doesn’t have that power. It simply encourages school districts and charter schools to explore a later start to the school day.

Katherine Kennedy, a board member with the Salt Lake City School District, testified in favor of the resolution. Kennedy said she was especially moved by data showing a mental health benefit resulting from later high school start times.

“There are immediate benefits in terms of mental health, anxiety and depression,” she said.

“There are also long term benefits in that sometimes students don’t even [develop] mental health issues if they are able to sleep later,” Kennedy added.

Harrison’s nonbonding resolution was praised by lawmakers on the committee. Orem Republican Rep. Brad Daw said he had a personal reason for supporting the measure.

“Having a son that’s about as easy to kick-start as a Caterpillar diesel, I can say with no uncertainty that a later time would be more effective,” Daw said.

The resolution received a unanimous, favorable recommendation from the House Health and Human Services Committee.

It will next face a vote on the House Floor.