There is a bill in Trenton that needs to become law, and Gov. Murphy says he’s open-minded to signing it should it reach his desk.

It’s Assembly bill 3816. It would require no high school have first bell before 8:30 a.m. A long-overdue later start time for high schoolers.

Science proved years ago that human beings in the teenage years are physically and mentally wired to go to sleep later and wake up later than when they’re younger kids or adults. Parents often deny the science and just scoff that kids are lazy and they need the discipline of waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare them for the real world. This “back in my day” mentality where all teenagers suck and the world has gone soft isn’t helping. Again, the science on this is in.

Kids aren’t staying up late because they refuse to get off their cell phones and video games. They’re on their cell phones and video games because their bodies are refusing to sleep when they lie in the dark and try.

The recognition of this natural shift in sleep/wake rhythms has consequences. Many worry about extracurricular activities and after-school sports. If high school starts at 8:45 instead of 7:25, what will it mean for after-school practice running out of daylight, family dinners, homework?

Then there’s the issue of transportation. Most districts start the high schools early and the elementary schools late, when biologically these kids are wired to have the opposite schedules. And the buses that get high schoolers to class usually turn around and next get the little kids to school. If high school start times change, the transportation reality means elementary schools have to start earlier. Then it means they get out earlier, at a time of day when parents may find it even harder to have a grownup at home to take care of younger kids.

See where it gets dicey? Still, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin sees value beyond the logistics headaches. He said, “Overwhelmingly, the research and success stories out of other states’ school districts show that the benefits of later start times to students’ holistic well-being, in terms of both mental health and academic performance, easily outweigh the costs.”

So what do you think? Later start times for high school students? Take our poll.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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