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Utah House approves resolution encouraging study of later high school start times

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives on Monday approved a resolution to encourage local solutions for later high school start times, driven by an effort to reduce depression and suicide rates in Utah schools.

The House voted 51-20 to pass HCR3, which encourages school districts, charter schools, and school community councils to consider the possible benefits and consequences of a later start to the school day for high schoolers.

The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, said her resolution isn’t an issue of “coddling children,” but rather an issue of adopting good public policy “to help our kids be as healthy as possible, especially when we lose far too many of them to mental illness and suicide.”

Harrison’s bill cites research that shows sleep deprivation can have numerous physical and mental health impacts on teenagers.

They include lack of attention to learning tasks, poor retention of information taught, low grades, increased risk of auto accidents, increased disciplinary problems, impaired judgment, increased suicidal thinking, increased levels of anxiety and depression, decreased motivation, increased substance abuse and other negative consequences.

According to HCR3, just 10% of adolescents get the recommended 9.25 hours of sleep each night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 75.4% of American high school students get less than eight hours of sleep and 43% get less than six hours of sleep on school nights.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.