Parent leaders in the Northshore School District recently united around a common cause – their kids weren’t getting enough sleep. On the heels of a new report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics calling chronic sleep loss by adolescents “one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S.” Northshore parents decided to take action.
The issue is a vexing one. A typical high school student must rise and shine long before most of us have had our first cup of coffee to arrive at school for classes that can start as early as 7:30 a.m. But early start times run counter to the typical sleep cycle of an adolescent. The result? High school students not ready to learn in first period and parents struggling to get their child up and moving in the wee hours of the morning.
Armed with research and their own, real-life experiences, Northshore parents used grassroots organizing techniques to build support for a proposal to move high school start times. They formed a group “Parents Advocates for a Later Start” (PALS), started a Facebook page, conducted phone and online surveys, met with their school board members, connected with national groups, and spoke up at PTA meetings and in online chat groups.
And their hard work paid off. The Northshore School Board unanimously agreed to move high school start times, and will develop a plan to roll out the changes across the district over the next few years.
Not every parent group meets with this level of success. Change is hard. But these parents discovered an issue that touched the daily lives of many families. They used that to rally their community in a positive way.