New Bill Could Change Start Time for Ohio Schools

Ellie Stephens

If a newly introduced bill passes the Ohio legislature, all public schools in Ohio would not be allowed to begin classes before 8:30 a.m. This would apply to schools at all levels including district, charter, and STEM. 

Senate Bill 218, proposed by Cleveland Sen. Sandra Williams, was introduced after California’s governor signed a similar bill, Senate Bill 238, into law based on research showing teenagers are not sleeping enough. The legislature is hoping to encourage talk about “the health, safety, and academic impact of sleep deprivation on middle and high school pupils”.

Major health organizations such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Medical Association (AMA) recommend that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. due to the negative health impacts early start times have on teenagers. 

The CDC states that “2 out of 3 U.S. high school students sleep less than 8 hours a night” and the AMA describes that “not allowing more time for sleep hinders health, academic performance, behavior, and general well-being”.

While later start time would benefit teen health, Williams told The Columbus Dispatch that her main reason for the bill proposal is safety. With early start times, students are heading to school in the dark which can be dangerous.

Citing the case of Elizabeth Robertson-Rutland, an 11-year-old in Columbus that was struck and killed by two cars as she crossed the street to get to her school bus stop at 6:30 a.m. in September, Williams said she wants to prevent children from having to catch school buses while it’s still dark.

The proposal has received both positive feedback and criticism. 

Stacy Simera, health policy director with Ohio’s chapter of Start School Later, believes that this is a public health issue, claims that later start times will help reduce health-care costs but Superintendent Euguene Blalock of North College Hill City School District worries that the change in start time will cause financial and transportation issues. 

State Sen. Cecil Thomas believes that later start times could be problematic and the decision should be left to school boards.